Integrated Approaches To Sustainable Infrastructure

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April 2019
United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

Infrastructure is central to development. It underpins the functioning of economies and delivers the services that are essential to human health and well-being. Indeed, complex and diverse forms of infrastructure – such as systems for energy, transport, buildings, food, water and sanitation, waste management, industrial facilities and telecommunications – make up the basic physical and organizational structures that are needed to support development at the global level. This also includes natural infrastructure – such as ecosystems and landscapes – as well as hybrid solutions that include biological components in the design of built infrastructure systems.

However, the worldwide drive for economic growth and development has led to an increase in the infrastructure demands of both developing and developed nations, with the gap between the global demand and supply of infrastructure growing by around US$1 trillion annually. As such, meeting this demand in a sustainable manner will be key to the success of global development initiatives such as the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda). This is mainly due to the long life-span of most infrastructure assets, which have the potential to “lock-in” unsustainable economic, social and environmental impacts for both our own and future generations. To this end, it is vital that the international community grasps the current infrastructure gap as an opportunity to build sustainable infrastructure that supports global development goals.

In this context, this paper, Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Infrastructure, raises three points. First, it illustrates infrastructure’s centrality to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. Second, it identifies integrated approaches as being essential for enabling infrastructure to contribute holistically to the SDGs. And third, it proposes ways to advance integrated approaches at the global level. With these points in mind, Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Infrastructure aims to motivate development planners to urgently invest in the technical and institutional capabilities possessed by governments, to apply integrated approaches that match the rapid expansion of infrastructure worldwide.