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Curbing Carbon from Consumption: The Role of Green Public Procurement

Curbing Carbon from Consumption: The Role of Green Public Procurement

Public procurement wields enormous purchasing power, accounting for an average of 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, and up to 30 percent of GDP in many developing countries (UNEP 2017a). In the European Union (EU), public procurement accounts for an estimated 19% of GDP (2.3 trillion Euros annually). When public entities leverage their large-scale purchasing power by buying sustainable goods and services, they help drive markets in the direction of sustainability, reduce the negative impacts of their use of goods, and produce positive environmental and social benefits.

The products that governments tend to procure (for example, large infrastructure such as roads, buildings and railways; and resources for services such as public transport and energy), account for a large percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The construction sector alone accounts for 35% of CO2 emissions in Europe, with a large part of these emissions attributable to construction materials such as cement, steel, and asphalt. In particular, cement and steel production each account for around 6% of global CO2 emissions. Not all construction included in these statistics is carried out by public entities, but government construction projects tend to be large scale, so green public procurement (GPP) policies can have a substantial impact on reducing the emissions associated with construction.

Many governments around the world have already recognized GPP’s value as a policy instrument and are trying to leverage the money they invest in large contracts to achieve green goals. Examples of GPP practices include encouraging reducing cement use or embodied CO2 in cement (rather than those that would have to be transported from elsewhere) in large infrastructure projects. To realize GPP’s potential, policy frameworks such as the European Commitment to Green Public Procurement have been developed.

In this report, we summarize GPP programs in 22 countries, 15 of which are among the top 20 greenhouse-gas (GHG)-emitting nations.

Published September 10, 2019