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The public chooses climate solutions

The authorities can choose climate-friendly solutions when they buy goods and services for 480 billion annually – but they do not.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

"The effect would be absolutely gigantic," says Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace in Norway, to Ny Tid. According to Statistics Norway, total purchases of goods and services for the public sector amounted to about NOK 480 billion in 2015. Purchases accounted for more than 15 per cent of gross national product (GDP). If all public procurement prioritises climate-friendly solutions, great progress could be made in the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions in a short time. Gulowsen points out that such a stimulation of the market for solutions from the public sector could lead to green solutions becoming competitive also in price soon.

"If we do this across the country, from everything from paper to machinery, it will move the entire environmental footprint in the right direction," he says.

Gulowsen reckons that such efforts will have a ripple effect. If the business community invests in environmentally friendly solutions to satisfy public tenders, these solutions will also be more widely distributed outside the public sector.

Only one emphasized the environment. It has long been a requirement in the tender rules that public purchasers should plan procurement to take environmental considerations into account. Still, the big grips that are moaning have been waiting.

"This issue with Green State has been discussed for as long as I have been dealing with environmental protection – but when we look at the effect of today's regulations, it does not deliver," says the Green-peace leader. Last year, the Storting decided to take action. In connection with the treatment of the new procurement law, it was decided that the environment should be weighted by 30 per cent in the award of new contracts. The new law is clearer for the public to promote environmental considerations and climate-friendly solutions in its procurement, and in recent months a regulatory provision on the 30 percent rule has been consulted.

If the regulation is passed, public purchasers will have to make major changes to their procurement practices. A report released by Difi last fall shows that 75 per cent of the procurement reviewed did not have environmental requirements as an award criterion at all. Only one of the calls investigated had weighted the environment by 30 percent or more. Other approaches that can give climate-friendly solutions an advantage in the competition, such as calculating life-cycle costs where operation and disposal count on a par with purchase costs, are also little used. Some more stated environmental requirements in the form of absolute terms or qualification requirements, but far from all. Such requirements may apply to source sorting of packaging, ban on harmful chemicals and requirements for energy efficiency. There are very few requirements for CO2 emissions.

Safe old habits. Ny Tid asks Marit Vea, advisor at ZERO, what she thinks is the reason why the public sector prioritises climate solutions so low. "There are some barriers," she says. "The fear of making mistakes goes away again, and then it is very tempting to act in the way you have done before. You end up using the same documents over and over again. It is very safe and good that way. " A report published by Menon last year shows that demanding customers are the most important driver of innovation. At the same time, the degree of customer-driven innovation is particularly small in the climate area, and innovation is also a very low priority in public procurement.

For the small public purchasers in municipalities and counties, it is also not a given that they know how to specify the environmental requirements. Lack of competence can reinforce the fear of making mistakes that lead to a complaint to the Complaints Board for Public Procurement (Kofa). Section leader Marit Holter-Sørensen in Difi explains: «There are several ways to set environmental requirements. We register that several make vague demands that are difficult to evaluate. " Director of Kofa Anneline Vingsgård confirms to Ny Tid that this can be a problem for the public
straight buyers in a grievance process. “Environment can be many things. If the award criteria have been too unclear, the evaluation will gladly state that the tender round should have been canceled. ”

Environmental activists dressed up as CO2 molecules stage a protest in Berlin on December 12, 2009 to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The COP15 climate summit continues with rich countries being asked to raise their pledges on tackling climate change under a draft text of a possible final deal at the Copenhagen summit. AFP PHOTO / DAVID GANNON

Depending on individuals. Whether a public buyer prioritizes the environment often depends on the personal involvement of individuals and on the attitude of management.

"That's because the disadvantage of not taking environmental concerns is very small and the risk of being punished by someone complaining when taking environmental concerns is very high. It may be suppliers that have lost the tender competition or internal ones who dislike spending more money on the environment. If the most reasonable ones do not win, you run the risk of trouble, ”says Gulowsen.

However, it does not have to be the case that price and environment are competitive considerations. Åshild Berg, senior advisor for purchasing at Avinor, works specifically to include environmental considerations in Avinor's procurements. "There is a general perception that environmentally friendly alternatives are more expensive," she tells Ny Tid. "This is not right. There are many examples of how by solving needs with more environmentally friendly alternatives, costs can be reduced both in terms of procurement and life cycle perspective. "

Ny Tid asks Berg what effect she thinks the requirement of 30 percent environmental weighting in the award will have. "It is not always appropriate to weight the environmental criteria," she says. Berg believes that absolute requirements are the best way to safeguard environmental considerations, and that there should be freedom for the individual company to define for itself how they can achieve the best result for the environment. She receives support from Holter-Sørensen: «Weighting is just one of several methods, and not always the one that is best suited to produce good environmental solutions. For example, if you are going to buy a car and you want it to emit as little CO2 as possible, it will be more environmentally efficient to demand maximum CO2 emissions or request offers for electric cars, than to use CO2 as an allocation criterion. In that case, offers with cars with emissions that exceed the maximum requirement for CO2 will be rejected from the competition.

Whether a public buyer prioritizes the environment often depends on the personal involvement of individuals and on the attitude of management.

The government must follow up. According to Berg, the new proposal for a 30 per cent environmental weighting in the allocation may in the worst case work against its purpose. The proposal is formulated so that the emphasis on the environment is to take place where relevant. "With such a practice, it could potentially be seen that the procurement authority – by procurement where the environment might have been relevant to be considered – will exclude the environment as an award criterion in its entirety, for reasons of other significance that are of greater importance," explains Berg. ZERO is largely satisfied with the new regulations and proposed regulations, but points to the need for the provisions to be followed up. "We think it is important that there is proper pressure from the authorities. After all, there has been no tradition of sanctioning anything particularly against those who do not set environmental requirements. From the government level down to the ministries, it should be very clearly communicated that this should be followed up. ”

also read The road system both best and worst in class.

Tori Aarseth
Aarseth is a political scientist and a regular journalist at Ny Tid.

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