The European Commission has long recognised greenhouse gas emissions and pollution caused by transport as key barriers to sustainable development and recently it emphasised that the motor fuel and transport sectors have an important role to play in achieving energy efficiency and energy savings. In Scotland alone, it is estimated that transport is accountable for approximately 25% of emissions, with around 70% of those emissions coming from road transport.

For that reason, last year the Commission adopted its Directive 2009/33/EC on the promotion of clean and energy efficient road transport vehicles (the Directive) to impose an obligation on Member States to take into account the environmental impacts of vehicles during public sector procurement.

The idea of incorporating environmental criteria in relation to public sector contracts (provided certain conditions are met) is not new. The Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (the Regulations) expressly permit the use of such criteria if they are linked to the subject matter of the contract, are consistent with the fundamental principles of the EU - including transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination - and are stated in the contract notice or contract documents.

However, following implementation into domestic law, Contracting Authorities (as well as certain operators) will be obliged to take into account lifetime energy and environmental impacts in their award criteria when procuring road transport vehicles (for instance passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, heavy goods vehicles or vehicles used for performing public passenger transport services under a public contract) regardless of whether or not the vehicles are bought or leased.

The Directive does not prevent an Authority selecting its own energy and environmental criteria relevant to the procurement, provided at the very least energy consumption, CO2 and NOx emissions are taken into account and the Authority takes those operational energy and environmental impacts into consideration by using one of the following three options:

1. Setting technical specifications for performance in the purchasing documentation;

2. Using the impacts as award criteria during a procurement procedure; or  

3. Monetising the impacts using a specific methodology for the calculation of operational lifetime costs, as set out in the Directive.

In addition to many other measures being introduced by the European Union, Westminster and the Scottish Parliament in an effort to support a substantial decrease in emissions, the Directive requires to be implemented by Member States by 4 December 2010 and may be a significant step towards achieving Scotland's emissions targets.