Biden administration shows climate momentum on Buy Clean
The United States has the opportunity to develop our clean manufacturing and construction industries to both renew America’s infrastructure and address the climate crisis by adopting a federal government. buy clean Politics. Whether federal agencies are looking to build high-performance green buildings, build new railroads, highways and bridges, rebuild a road or a school after a natural disaster, or make a community more climate-resilient, they must seek to use low carbon concrete, steel, and other building materials. This would not only help these industries decarbonize and the nation meet its climate goals, but also support good jobs and strengthen our manufacturing base.
The Biden-Harris administration clearly recognizes the importance of the federal government leading by example on decarbonization and using federal procurement as a key lever for climate action. As part of this vision, the administration has taken several steps over the past year to advance Buy Clean. More recently, he sought public comment on potential changes to federal procurement regulations to ensure procurement by key federal agencies minimizes climate change risk.
As the NRDC and our partners have highlighted in our comments, the federal government can play a critical role in building a strong foundation of transparent, high-quality data to underpin the sourcing of low-carbon materials. It can also use sourcing pilots on an initial subset of materials to reward early adopters of decarbonization techniques and technologies and attract cleaner alternatives as part of billions in near-term infrastructure investment. . Both would lay the groundwork for a comprehensive federal Buy Clean program.
What is BuyClean?
Buy Clean is a policy that would require all federally funded infrastructure projects to consider the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts generated during the manufacture of the materials they purchase and preferentially award contracts to manufacturers whose production processes generate fewer embodied emissions and pollutants. .
Such a program would have the following advantages:
- Establish a standardized framework for federal procurement of low-carbon building materials;
- Support U.S. manufacturers of these materials to become more competitive in a global marketplace that values low-carbon products and sustainability;
- Create high-paying American jobs across government, materials manufacturing, third-party standards/certifications/tools development organizations, and infrastructure project planning and deployment; and
- Reduce GHG emissions from the industrial sector in support of the country’s goal to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by mid-century.
Building a Solid Foundation for Buy Clean
A successful Buy Clean program must be based on an accurate and standardized system to quantify and track life cycle GHG emissions associated with widely used building materials. The federal government can play a unique role in ensuring that the procurement of low-carbon materials is based on transparent, high-quality data by:
- Require contractors and subcontractors to use a common emissions reporting mechanism, such as a Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). EPDs are the best practice for tracking embodied GHG emissions in industrial building materials and products, and the federal government plays a key role in encouraging and standardizing their use.
- Ensure harmonization of a set of rules, requirements and guidelines for developing EPDs for different product categories so that EPDs have comparable measurements; and
- Support access to reliable and transparent baseline data used to calculate environmental impact to generate EPDs that can be used consistently in the procurement process.
By playing this role, the federal government will assist federal, state, and private sector efforts to use EPDs fairly and equitably in procurement processes and, in doing so, build confidence in the integrity of policies. own purchase. It will also ensure that manufacturers of low carbon materials are not faced with a patchwork of different market requirements and rules.
Procurement pilots can have a short-term impact
The federal government also has a unique opportunity to ensure that billions of dollars in federal infrastructure investments go hand in hand with programs to purchase low-carbon industrial building materials. Short-term federal procurement pilot programs would not only signal a market for early adopters of EPDs and high-performing manufacturers, but would help accelerate the global deployment of other industrial decarbonization incentives provided at the federal and state level. States. This would help realize earlier GHG reductions in the industrial sector; highlight key learnings for business and government; and identify best practices for government to integrate climate performance into contract award alongside cost. Moving forward now with procurement pilots also adds significant incentive for companies to adopt EPDs, generating critical data for the eventual implementation of Buy Clean.
Building back better with clean materials offers significant GHG savings
As we and our partners have detailed in our reviews, construction materials typically represent only a small fraction of the costs of a total construction project, but are often responsible for the bulk of its GHG footprint. We estimate that with better information on the embodied carbon emissions of cement and steel, for example, GHG emissions savings of 10-20% are available at very low premiums. Deep decarbonization (60% and more) could be available at a higher but still modest price, around 10-15%.
It is important to note that as more companies adopt cleaner manufacturing processes and/or products to compete for the large pool of federally funded construction companies, these same manufacturers will sell low-carbon materials to buyers in the wider private market, alongside the public sector. This “indirect impact” has the potential to significantly increase emissions savings and reduce costs compared to public construction projects alone.
The Build Back Better Act would help drive this innovation
The federal government can enhance the impact of Buy Clean by investing directly to help US companies make cleaner industrial building materials. The biggest and most immediate opportunity Congress has to do this is to pass the Build Back Better Act.
Federal tax policy, grant programs and other types of direct investment could be used to retool existing factories with new technologies and build first-class factories to produce steel, cement and other materials with very low emissions. Making these investments will not only help achieve our climate goals, but also create well-paying jobs and ensure America’s competitiveness in the growing global market for low-carbon industrial products.
The Biden administration is moving forward
Further demonstrating his administration’s commitment, President Biden also signed a Executive Decree in December, which includes a federal Buy Clean program and establishes a Buy Clean task force to seize some of the key opportunities highlighted above. The working group will soon provide recommendations on how to collect data on life cycle GHG emissions associated with the production of widely used building materials. It will also make recommendations in two additional areas: 1) grants, loans, technical assistance or other means to invest directly in domestic manufacturers and help them report and reduce their emissions; and 2) pilot programs that encourage federal procurement of low embodied-emitting building materials.
The president is right to elevate and pursue data transparency alongside incentives to purchase low-carbon materials and direct investments in tandem. Advancing all three in tandem will create the most impactful federal Buy Clean agenda for our climate and our economy.