Environmental integration is considered an efficient strategy for achieving sustainable development, and in the context of cohesion policy context it can be approached in the following ways:
- ‘vertical environmental integration’ – a programme may involve projects that are of direct benefit to the environment (e.g. water, waste or nature conservation);
- ‘horizontal environmental integration’ – this complements the first approach and involves integrating environmental aspects (e.g. resource-efficiency requirements) in a cross-cutting manner in non-environmental measures in a programme.
One of themes addressed in report Mainstreaming the environment in cohesion policy in 2014-2020 prepared by European Network of Environmental Authorities – Managing Authorities (ENEA-MA) working group is horizontal environmental integration.
The topic is also tackled in in the report Integration of environmental concerns in Cohesion Policy Funds (ERDF, ESF, CF) which covers three programming periods (2000-2006, 2007-2013, 2014-2020). With regards to the current programming period it concludes that the way horizontal integration of environmental issues is approached in practice varies between the EU Member States. Besides, a significant number of the reviewed OPs describe how vertical environmental integration has been considered, while actual horizontal integration is tackled to a lesser extent.
One of the possible ways of advancing horizontal integration of environmental concerns is to focus on implementation of green public procurement (GPP). The report Integration of environmental concerns in Cohesion Policy Funds (ERDF, ESF, CF) highlights that for the 2014-2020 period, the encouragement of prioritisation of projects entailing the use of GPP is mentioned in about half of the OPs reviewed. It is also emphasised that that the majority of these OPs make a more generic reference to the use of GPP horizontally throughout the programme, and the use of GPP in project selection is seldom specified in connection with specific planned activities and Investment Priorities (IPs) of the OPs. This would indicate that there is a potential for Cohesion Policy to further encourage the establishment of GPP schemes and enhance institutional capacity of Public Administration.
The Interreg Europe GPP4Growth project aims to address the challenges and exploit the possibilities related to the adoption of the new EU public procurement system, effective since April 2016. GPP4Growth partners area working to together to find solutions for improving the effectiveness of policy instruments with regards to themes such as eco-innovation, resource efficiency and green growth, mostly by using new award criteria in calls and tenders that pay particular attention to environmental considerations.
For example, the Lombardy region (a partner in the project), as Managing Authority of the Lombardy ROP, has identified the need to more systematically use GPP criteria in tenders, following the provisions of the national Action Plan on GPP developed by the Ministry of Environment. Although GPP criteria have been developed for several sectors, life cycle costing methods need to be integrated in sectors such as food, health, tourism, construction and cleaning services, which are supported by the ROP. Furthermore, rewarding environmental criteria need to be developed in addition to core criteria to spur eco-innovation in businesses.
The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Regional Government of Andalucia, a partner in the GPP4Growth project, is developing technical recommendations for the preparation of contract documents with environmental criteria in three specific areas of common interest for most administrations: paper supplies for copies and graphic paper; equipment supplies and contracting of cleaning services and products. These easy-to-use recommendations have been prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration and the García Oviedo University Research Institute (IUGO). The Ministry held also sectoral round tables with the representatives of private associations from each sector and public administrations.
Image credit: Photo by Min An from Pexels
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