Buy Clean policies are quickly gaining momentum in statehouses across the country and now, thanks to the leadership of the Biden administration, at the federal level. Essentially, Buy Clean says that when governments use taxpayer money to make large purchases—like buying the steel and concrete that go into infrastructure projects—they should consider the emissions impact of manufacturing those products and select the products that best support clean air, good jobs, and a livable climate.
Today, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Climate Policy Office (CPO) announced new actions under the Federal Buy Clean Initiative to spur the development of low-carbon construction materials.
There are a number of ways that Buy Clean helps to ensure that government spending on infrastructure projects reduces pollution, revitalizes American manufacturing, and benefits workers and communities. Here are just a few, explored in more detail in a report entitled Buy Clean: A Tool to Create Good Jobs, Cut Pollution, and Renew Manufacturing:
- Buy Clean reduces the emissions driving climate change. The industrial sector represents a significant chunk of the nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—23 to 30% depending on what factors are taken into consideration. Buy Clean helps drive down those emissions in several ways, the most basic of which is by helping governments find products made at facilities with lower emissions. They do so by reviewing environmental product declarations (EPDs), which break down the emissions created by manufacturing a given product. With that information, governments can select the products made with less pollution and lower GHG impact.
- Buy Clean can help keep taxpayer money here in the United States. There are two ways this works. The first is by coupling Buy Clean with other procurement policies; such as Buy America, which says that governments should prioritize the purchase of products produced domestically. The second is simply because by and large, the products that Buy Clean applies to are made in cleaner ways here in the United States because of our stronger environmental standards. That means that a beneficial side effect of Buy Clean is that the cleaner products are often made by U.S. workers and therefore the taxpayer money goes to support workers here in the United States.
- Enforcement of Buy Clean will create a race to the top and encourage more manufacturers to pursue cleaner processes. The U.S. government is the largest purchaser on Earth. By leveraging this vast purchasing power to drive demand for clean infrastructure materials, Buy Clean will level the playing field for manufacturers already doing the right things to reduce emissions. This also creates a new incentive for all manufacturers to likewise take steps to produce their products in cleaner ways.
- Buy Clean supports the creation and retention of good-paying American jobs. Because the products that Buy Clean applies to are often made in lower-emitting ways here in the United States, the implementation of Buy Clean will serve to support manufacturing jobs here at home and reverse decades of outsourcing. With Buy Clean, demand for lower-emitting, American-made products will grow, which can in turn support the creation of good union manufacturing jobs across the nation.
- Coupled with investments in developing and deploying clean technologies, Buy Clean can help launch the next generation of innovative American manufacturing. As noted, the products that Buy Clean applies to are generally made in cleaner ways in the United States. But, other countries are investing in developing innovative new manufacturing processes. For the U.S. to be a global climate and manufacturing leader in the years to come, we’ll have to do the same. Buy Clean, coupled with federal investment in innovative new manufacturing processes will help launch the next generation of clean American manufacturing.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law in August 2022, will complement Buy Clean by investing billions of dollars to directly help manufacturers reduce emissions and use environmental product declarations, while devoting billions to government purchases of low-emissions construction materials for public buildings and highways.