1

Clean Energy Canada | What Canada can learn from U.S. clean construction policies: report
April 26, 2022

man in orange coveralls standing in front of shredded metal

TORONTO — Governments around the world are using public procurement—the system used to make purchasing decisions—as a tool to tackle climate change and support jobs. 

From Canada to the U.S. to the EU, governments are using “Buy Clean” policies to incentivize the use of lower-carbon construction materials in infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and buildings.

With the federal government indicating it wants to adopt the policy here in Canada, Clean Energy Canada has released a new report that dives into how leading U.S. jurisdictions have developed and implemented Buy Clean—and what Canada can learn from them.

With government procurement responsible for 15% of global carbon emissions, Buy Clean has significant emissions reduction potential. Here in Canada, governments buy about 30% of all steel, cement, and concrete sold annually.

Introducing a Buy Clean strategy would also be good news for Canada’s manufacturing sector. As the world moves toward net zero, demand for lower-carbon products is growing. Canadian industries typically produce cleaner goods than international competitors, in large part thanks to an 83% emissions-free electricity grid. Done properly, Buy Clean supports faster climate action, while protecting industrial competitiveness and good jobs.

What’s more, Buy Clean has the added advantage of being a potential pathway to exempt Canadian products from “Buy American” rules by demonstrating that Canada is aligned with the U.S. on climate and procurement.

The report lists six lessons that Canada can learn from the U.S. that could streamline its Buy Clean approach.

The advantages are clear. Now Canada must make its Buy Clean ambitions a reality.

KEY FACTS

  • Government procurement is responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Government procurement accounts for 12% to 30% of national GDP in most countries.
  • In the U.S., 46% of cement and 18% of steel consumption is purchased for public projects, emitting 57 Mt of CO2e in 2018.
  • In Canada, governments spend about $200 billion on goods and products every year. That includes about $4-billion worth of cement, concrete and steel, or about 30% of the market for these materials.
  • The government of Canada included Buy Clean as part of its 2021 election campaign and also included it in the December 2021 mandate letters for three federal ministers.
  • Recent polling found that three-quarters of Canadians support low-carbon purchasing requirements for public infrastructure projects, even if this leads to slightly higher costs.

RESOURCES

Report | Lessons from the United States on “Buying Clean” and recommendations for Canada