Investing in Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure for Sustainable Development

By William Kelly posted 10-17-2018 10:42 AM


Achieving the UN SDGs in Asia will require enormous investments in infrastructure.   According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) report Meeting Asia's Infrastructure Needs, infrastructure needs in developing Asia and the Pacific will exceed $22.6 trillion through 2030, or $1.5 trillion per year and rise to over $26 trillion, or $1.7 trillion per year, when climate change mitigation and adaptation costs are incorporated.  ADB data can be accessed here.  By way of comparison, ASCE estimated that $4.5 trillion needs to be invested in the U.S. by 2025 or a little over $.5 trillion per year.

Investing in sustainable infrastructure is recognized as key to achieving SDG 13 - Urgent Action to Address Climate Change and many of the other SDGs including, cities, water, and energy.   The financial sector is beginning to demand evidence that investments in infrastructure will be both sustainable and resilient; see e.g. UN Environment Program Greening the Rules of the Game.  The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) specifically addresses the SDGs in its new Transportation Sector Strategy.  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) strategy is aligned with the UN SDGs and the latest version of ADB's Key Indicators for the Asia Pacific Region includes SDG indicators.

It is not surprising then that the financial sector is also playing a leading role in defining "how to do" sustainable infrastructure. The Inter-American  Development Bank (IDB) released its Technical Note What is Infrastructure? A Framework to Guide Sustainability Across the Project Life Cycle in March 2018. This framework builds on the many tools that exist including ISI Envision. The IDB framework emphasizes doing the project right and doing the right project in alignment with ASCE Policy 418 The Role of the Civil Engineering in Sustainable Development and the new ASCE Roadmap.  In June 2017, the China International Contractors Association (CHINCA ) jointly with the Dagong Group released Guidelines of Sustainable Infrastructure for Chinese International Contractors based on some of the same tools and approaches as the IDB framework. The Guidelines are intended to be a standard for sustainable infrastructure.

This evolving alignment between the financial and engineering/construction sectors on the meaning and "how to" of sustainable infrastructure suggests that a much needed transformation is well underway.