The New Zealand government is pledging to "buy green" in a bid to make it the first country to become carbon neutral.

Prime minister Helen Clark last month announced a sustainable procurement plan for all government departments, as part of a larger package of environmental policies to tackle climate change. She said government procurement played an important part in helping the country achieve total sustainability by 2012.

The New Zealand government spends at least NZ$25 billion (£9 billion) a year on goods and services, NZ$6 billion (£2.1 billion) of which is spent by central government, and it owns around 30 per cent of all buildings. It hopes its plan will encourage businesses to offer more sustainable products to the market, as well as help the government to cut costs.

In her speech to parliament, Clark said: "We intend to use our purchasing power to help drive innovation, cleaner production and improved cost effectiveness over the whole life of goods and services." Currently each department or agency is responsible for their own purchasing decisions. Under the proposed plan, a single green procurement policy will be developed for all 47 government departments and agencies, setting out measurable standards of sustainability. A detailed plan for how the government will buy green is expected later this year. Yet one initiative is already under way.

The Department of Internal Affairs' fleet of VIP cars will be replaced with more fuel-efficient vehicles, which is estimated to save NZ$500,000 (£180,000) over three years.


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