“Cool UN”: multilateralism gets hot and sweaty

The following email was circulated to UN staff in New York today.

As summer approaches in the Northern Hemisphere and the mercury rises, it is time again to get ready for “Cool UN”, a practical way for the UN to demonstrate its commitment to using energy wisely.  As in previous years, from 1 June, thermostats at New York Headquarters will be set to 77 degrees Fahrenheit / 25 degrees Celsius in offices and to 75 degrees Fahrenheit / 24 degrees Celsius in conference rooms.  Once more, we are also inviting the landlords of our leased spaces to join us in this effort.

So far, so easy to mock.  But there is more… so much more.

Over the years, we have learned that not all colleagues agree on what constitutes a comfortable temperature. Depending on their cultural background, what is pleasant for one person can be “borderline” for the next. It is also a reality that, in some buildings, either because of the direction an office faces or possibly due to older ducting, the consistency of temperature can be difficult to finesse.

Damn that combination of aged ducting and cultural pluralism.  What can the UN do?

We nonetheless do our best to find an acceptable compromise and, in setting the thermostats, we are guided by temperature ranges recommended by international human comfort indexes.

International human what?

The idea is simple: Rather than having to bulk up on clothing in the summer because the air conditioning is too cold inside, we dress according to the season, keep the thermostat a bit higher and save energy.

During the “Cool UN” initiative, therefore, staff are encouraged to dress in lighter clothing appropriate for a business setting, including national dress, so as to remain comfortable.

My despair is complete.  Oh no, there’s more.

Increasingly, the “Cool UN” practice is being echoed by other UN agencies and offices away from Headquarters.  Together we can set an example.

That’s so true.  This is an example of how not write an email, for a start.