Handbook on green public procurement for local authorities published

The European Commission has published a handbook on green public procurement explaining how public purchasers, such as schools, hospitals and national and local administrations, can take the environment into account when buying goods, services and works.

Public authorities spend around 16%, or €1,500 billion, every year. Their actions could, therefore, increase demand for green goods, encourage green production and help environmentally friendly technologies conquer the market.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said: “Public authorities have enormous purchasing power. If, for example, all public authorities in the Union switched to green electricity, it would save 60 million tonnes of CO2, or 18% of the EU’s Kyoto commitment on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.”

Despite the EU’s public procurement directives, which make clear that public authorities can adopt environmental considerations into their procedures, a recent study of procurement practices in the EU15 shows that only 19% of all public administrations actually do undertake any significant amount of green purchasing.

Major barriers cited are the lack of knowledge to set the right environmental criteria in tender documents, budgetary constraints due to the often higher “up front” price of green products, and legal uncertainty.

The new handbook attempts to overcome these barriers and emphasises the importance of taking the life-cycle cost of all purchases into account and refers to an online database which gives environmental information on 100 products and services.

Frits Bolkestein, Internal Market Commissioner, said: “I hope that the handbook will encourage the sharing of best practices and experiences to further green procurement policies. In this respect, the handbook already presents practical examples taken from a wide range of authorities across the EU.”

By David Hopkins

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