27 March 2020
Earth Hour, the global lights-out event, will take place on Saturday 28 March. Participants are asked to turn off non-essential electric lights for one hour from 20:30 to 21:30, and thereby raise awareness for energy consumption and its effects. The movement was created by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and several partners in Sydney in 2007. Today, the event is supported by organisations and individuals in more than 180 countries. The EPO is participating by switching off non-essential electric lights for one hour at all sites.
Sustainability is a long-standing priority at the EPO, both from a governance perspective and at each site. The Office is committed to making a greater contribution to the long-term environmental goals of the Paris Agreement 2015 and aims to deliver all activities with the least environmental impact possible.
Environmental activities have been governed by the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) since 2009 and after a decade of implementing this scheme, the Office has reduced its annual electricity consumption by 13%, water consumption by 9%, residual waste generation by 24%, heat energy consumption by 20%, total paper consumption by 3.9% and CO2 emissions from energy consumption by 68%. The EPO publishes these results in an annual environmental report.
At a local level, the EPO sites in Munich, The Hague, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna look to make positive contributions within their respective host cities. In 2019, the Office became a signatory of Klimapakt2, a City of Munich environment initiative. Under this agreement, the EPO will work to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 20 000 tonnes.
The EPO's building in The Hague was recently redeveloped with sustainability as a central design element. It features a double glass facade that plays an essential part of the building's climate concept, photovoltaic solar panels that provide a source of renewable energy, and an aquifer thermal energy storage system to reduce primary energy consumption and related CO2 emissions.
These measures have been underpinned by the Strategic Plan, which not only emphasises the role of sustainability, but also outlines the initiatives that will help achieve environmental targets. For example, through digitalisation, the Office plans to further reduce paper consumption, and cut local, national and international travel as teams are now equipped to work remotely. The ability of staff to work from home has given rise to immediate benefits, not only in terms of sustainability, but amid the current coronavirus situation as well.