Regulaton & Policy
Sustainable Public Procurement — On the Road to 2020

During the past two weeks Paris has seen negotiations between 200 countries to arrive at the first global deal that will commit them to cutting greenhouse gas emissions (COP21). The agreement will come into force in 2020. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol deal failed because some countries either pulled out, wouldn’t sign up or failed to comply (elements of this and past deals have been voluntary); the 2009 Copenhagen talks failed for pretty much the same reasons owing to fears of hampering economic growth and development. So some see this as history in the making, while others see it as a first step towards bigger goals. As money is historically the inhibitor to uptake and success of any project, $100 billion a year is made available in ‘climate finance’ to help poorer countries by 2020, then there will be further finance as the deal is reviewed five yearly. (There are some concerns that this will be not nearly enough.)

In terms of public procurement, sustainability will no doubt lie at the core. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) states: “Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is about the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of further generations … SCP is about doing more and better with less.” That is something local councils know a lot about!

Last week UNEP, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), and the Korean Environmental Institute for Technology and Innovation (KEITI) hosted a session at the Cities and Regions Pavilion (TAP2015) to raise awareness about the potential of sustainable public procurement (SPP). They focused on how emissions related to public procurement activity can be measured and discussed practical ways to reduce emissions through SPP. There appeared to be a lot of emphasis on ‘measuring’ or “monitoring as a powerful communication tool for encouraging sustainable procurement.”

The PPI reports that, at a meeting on green procurement arranged by KEITI and UNEP in Seoul (South Korea) before the COP21 negotiations, a “… declaration was endorsed by several partners of the 10YFP (the 10-year global framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns to enhance international cooperation in the shift towards SCP in developed and developing countries) on SPP and Seoul meeting participants. The goals of the Declaration include highlighting sustainable public procurement as a public policy tool for achieving national climate commitments, and emphasising that if the actions of the public and private sectors on sustainable procurement are aligned, it will accelerate the achievement of ambitious climate goals.”

The urgency is this: some national and local climate commitments are due to become binding as part of an international climate agreement in 2020, which isn’t far away. So, local authorities will need to be ready to tackle cooperation, collaboration and sustainable public procurement effectively.

The Transformative Actions Program (TAP) aims to improve access to existing capital flows to cities and regions, accelerate additional capital flows, and maximise investment in low-carbon and climate-resilient urban development and governance processes. So it is worth taking a look at the website for more information. And UNEP has launched an environment and trade hub to support countries in implementing sustainable development goals and assist them in using “sustainable trade as a vehicle for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

As the website says: the Hub offers:

  • Capacity building services for developing countries such as tailored technical trainings to support international, regional and national design and implementation of sustainable trade and investment policies
  • Targeted stakeholder trainings; technical assistance in designing trade and environment related agreements; development of tools, methodologies and indicators for sustainable trade
  • Identification and dissemination of best practices; support to stakeholder consultations and national, regional, and international dialogues on advancing sustainable trade
  • The identification of sector- or region-specific sustainable production and trade opportunities

So it is worth taking a look here. There’s a wealth of information on all of these sites, and probably much more out there worth the searching. Public Spend Matters is sure to have more on the subject in the coming months.