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Sustainable Infrastructure

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What is sustainable infrastructure? Sustainable infrastructure is the development of roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructure, but requires careful consideration due to the enormous impacts to the well-being of people and the planet.

Emerging markets and developing economies need vast investments for new infrastructure to spur growth. At the same time, advanced economies need equally large amounts to replace or upgrade aging public assets.

Yet more investment is not all that is needed. When funding the roads, bridges, power plants, water supplies and ports that power economic growth, investors and governments must also consider carbon and environmental footprints, social cohesion, stewardship of natural ecosystems, and the financial viability of projects. In short, they must plan and build infrastructure that is sustainable.

IISD defines sustainable infrastructure as assets that:

  • Steward natural ecosystems
  • Lower carbon and environmental footprints
  • Maximize the use of infrastructure services provided by natural ecosystems
  • Move beyond compliance on core labour standards and human rights
  • Trigger green technological and industrial innovation
  • Spur investment in education, skills building and research & development
  • Increase employment and the growth of green jobs
  • Are financially viable
  • Crowd-in domestic investors and businesses
  • Increase foreign direct investment
  • Bring value for money for taxpayers and investors across the asset life cycle

Roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructure must be sustainable if the world is to meet the goals and targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Highly sophisticated instruments are needed to enable better decision-making, mitigate risks, generate returns and optimize value for money across the lifecycle of an asset. IISD created the Sustainable Asset Valuation tool (SAVi) to meet this demand. We also created the Sustainable Infrastructure Portal as a repository of news and views on sustainable infrastructure. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive all the latest updates.

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