Local authorities are key players in the local economy. As the government level closest to the citizen, they have an important influence on the environmental habits of the general public and can make a major contribution to the implementation of the principles of sustainable development at local level. Public authorities can improve their own environmental performance, not just for their own benefit, but also to set an example for the community.
EMAS can help in achieving this by providing a structured framework for managing and improving the local authority's own environmental performance. There are an increasing number of public authorities seeking EMAS registration. To date, there are more than 140 located in the following Member States: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Participation in EMAS has been open to the public administration sector since April 2001 when the EMAS Regulation was revised. However before that, many local authorities, particularly in the UK and Germany have participated in a pilot scheme based on Article 14 of the previous EMAS Regulation. Today the public administration sector is one of the fastest growing sectors as regards EMAS uptake.
Local authorities have a considerable number of different duties: Schools, waste disposal, road maintenance, law enforcement, fire brigade, procurement, leisure and many more. In order to evaluate environmental aspects for all of these duties, larger public authorities publish Environmental Statements rich in data.
The assessment of indirect aspects such as procurement, transport, planning and design of services is complex and tedious matter, which may call for intense considerations and professional help from consultants and universities.