the power of green procurement Mogens Peter Carl, Director-General for the Environment at the European Commission, explains why the public sectors in European countries are better off going green E urope’s public authorities are influential consumers. They have an annual budget equivalent to 16 per cent of the EU’s GDP – around 1,600 billion – so if they spend this money on greener products and services, they can make an important contribution to environmental protection and eco-innovation. And now that environmental pressures are increasing, this is rapidly becoming a global imperative. The effects of climate change – storms, floods, droughts - are becoming more evident and more intense. The five hottest years on record since the 1860s occurred within the last decade. The recent UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment shows that two thirds of the ecosystems that provide us with essential services - such as food and fibre, clean air, and fresh water - are being significantly degraded. In addition, rapidly developing economies are further increasing the pressure on the environment. We must find ways to reduce the negative impacts of our production and MISCONCEPTIONS purchasers can include environmental criteria consumption patterns on our environment, The most common arguments against green in their tender documents. Governments are health and natural resources – and this is public procurement are that it is more even allowed to go one step further and decide, where public authorities have a role to play. expensive than conventional procurement, as for example, to make green purchasing well as problematic from a legal point of view. mandatory for certain parts of their LOWER CO2 EMISSIONS Both arguments are incorrect. administration, or set targets for certain A study conducted for the European Many green alternatives, like energy-efficient product groups. Apart from that, the legislation Commission, the EU’s executive body, between computers, printers and photocopiers, are no focuses on the principles of non- 2001 and 2003 shows just how important this more expensive than conventional products. discrimination, equal treatment and role could be. If all public bodies in the EU And even if some other products are more transparency, and seeks to ensure best value switched to green electricity, they would avoid expensive in terms of their initial purchase for the taxpayer’s money, a level playing-field more than 60 million tonnes of CO2 emissions price, they save money during their life-cycle, for competing contractors, and European-wide per year, thus contributing towards 18 per cent which offsets the initial cost. Typical examples competition. of the EU’s Kyoto target on reduced are energy-saving bulbs, which are around four greenhouse gas emissions. If the public sector times more energy-efficient than their STATE OF PLAY IN THE EU also started purchasing energy-efficient counterparts and last up to ten times longer, A recent survey shows that only seven of the desktop computers – each year it buys more and printers and copiers that can print double- 25 EU member states practise a significant than 2.8 million PCs - another 830,000 tonnes sided – which cuts down on paper amount of green purchasing, meaning that of CO2 would be prevented, which would bring consumption. more than 40 per cent of their tenders us an additional 0.25 per cent closer to the It is therefore important for authorities to published in the year preceding the study Kyoto goal.1 look not just at the up-front price, but at the contained green criteria. But even in those Green public procurement would significantly whole life-cycle cost of a product: its purchase “front-running” countries - Austria, Denmark, improve the take-up of new environmental price, the cost of use and the cost of disposal. Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden technologies, particularly in areas where public In this way, they will find that buying green can and the UK - there is scope for improvement, authorities are important consumers such as even save the taxpayer money, through because many of these “green” tenders were ICT, transport and construction. In this way, reduced operating costs, reduced use of not formulated in a clear, non-discriminatory through the effects of economies of scale, resources and reduced waste generation. way.3 production costs would go down and we would From a legal point of view, the EU’s new According to the survey, major barriers to be better equipped to fight today’s great Public Procurement Directives of 2004,2 which green public procurement are lack of environmental problems, including climate the EU member countries had to transpose into environmental knowledge, budgetary change, the loss of biodiversity and their national legislation by January of this constraints and legal uncertainty. The European unsustainable use of the world’s resources. year, make it absolutely clear that public Commission and many EU governments are >> working to overcome these obstacles. STIMULATING GREEN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT The European Commission has published a Handbook4 to help public authorities further. “Buying Green” explains in clear, non-legal terms how to include environmental criteria in the different stages of a public procurement procedure, going from the definition of the subject matter to the formulation of contract clauses. It also contains a number of concrete examples of local authorities buying green. Our website on green public procurement5 has useful background information and links to databases of environmental criteria for products, to national websites on green public procurement, and to environmental management schemes and eco-label websites. We are continually updating the website to include more structured and focused information for both policymakers and purchasing officers, and practical examples of green tender specifications. ECO-LABEL CRITERIA Purchasing officers are often not acquainted “A recent survey shows that only seven of with environmental issues and do not know the 25 EU member states practise a significant amount of green purchasing” where to look for the right criteria. The Commission therefore also promotes the use of eco-label criteria in tender documents, since they are an easily accessible source of environmental information for many product the mid-1990s. groups, in particular in the ICT sector. The new Green public procurement therefore plays an Notes: public procurement Directives expressly allow important role in many of our policy initiatives, 1 For more details about environmental gains, for the inclusion of eco-label criteria, as long as from our climate change policies, to the see: http://www.iclei-europe.org/?relief they are non-discriminatory and objective, and Environmental Technologies Action Plan, which 2 Directive 2004/18/EC of the European have been adopted through stakeholder encompasses a range of measures to Parliament and of the Council of 31 March consultation on the basis of scientific overcome barriers to the development and 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the information. There are many national eco- wider use of eco-technologies, and Integrated award of public works contracts, public supply labelling schemes – as well as one European Product Policy, which seeks to reduce the contracts and public service contracts and scheme - that comply with these conditions, negative environmental impacts of a product Directive 2004/17/EC of the European and the Commission has issued specific throughout its life-cycle. EU leaders have Parliament and of the Council of 31 March guidelines for the use of eco-label criteria in repeatedly stressed the importance of eco- 2004 coordinating the procurement procedures green public procurement.6 innovation for EU competitiveness in the of entities operating in the water, energy, To raise awareness and improve the quality of context of the EU Strategy for Growth and transport and postal services sectors green tender documents, the Commission is Jobs.7 3 More information at: also financing workshops in various EU http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/gpp/me member countries and will shortly develop a MULTIPLE BENEFITS dia.htm#state training toolkit with concrete examples of green By promoting energy efficiency and renewable 4 The Handbook is available in all EU tender specifications for a list of products. energy sources, green public procurement can languages at: also contribute to a more sustainable energy http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/gpp/gui POLITICAL CONTEXT AT EUROPEAN LEVEL system in Europe, as set out in the recent delines.htm#handbook In recent years, the strategic importance of Green Paper on a European Strategy for 5 At: public procurement for both the environment Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy.8 http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/gpp/ and competitiveness in Europe has been Other benefits include more sustainable use of 6 At: receiving growing attention in EU member natural resources, waste prevention and http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/gpp/gui states and at European level. It is a simple win- recycling, and more sustainable cities. delines.htm win situation: we need new products, services Because of the huge purchasing power of the and technologies that are less harmful to the public sector, we can achieve immense environment to be able to cope with today’s environmental benefits by encouraging them to environmental problems, and on top of that “buy green”. We must not miss this chance. FOR MORE INFORMATION they have the potential to open up new markets The European Commission will continue to To view more articles on green public and create new jobs. The EU eco-industries work closely with EU governments to promote procurement go to sector already accounts for one third of the green public procurement throughout Europe, http://ec.europe.eu/comm/environment/gpp/ global market, which is estimated at 550 but it relies on each individual purchasing media.htm billion per year, and it has enjoyed a healthy officer deciding to give it a try and thus help to annual growth rate of around 5 per cent since achieve a more eco-friendly world.
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