The Infrastructure and Nature Coalition is led by 25+ organizations dedicated to the future of infrastructure.
The private and public sectors are expected to invest $90 trillion in major infrastructure projects between now and 2030—essentially doubling the amount of infrastructure on Earth and transforming the surface of the planet. Infrastructure is key to achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. New infrastructure investments are essential for delivering low-carbon and resilient solutions that provide for the food, energy, and well-being needs of a growing global population. On the other hand, these investments could potentially cause significant harm to biodiversity and the natural environment by destroying or increasing fragmentation of habitat; blocking critical wildlife corridors; depleting nonrenewable resources; and increasing pollution and direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. The extraordinary scale of investment needs for infrastructure in the next few decades presents a truly historic opportunity to place humanity on a more sustainable path.
The options we choose may either contribute to human development in line with environmental targets or lock in unsustainable patterns for decades. There are widespread gaps in government policies, institutions, research, and planning capacity needed to embed ecological and climate implications in options that account for externalities over the life of an infrastructure investment. The private sector is helping drive the shift to more sustainable infrastructure with innovative technical solutions and increasing efficiencies. It often finds, however, that a lack of clear and readily available information on environmental and social risks can hinder investment, increase costs, and, ultimately, reduce the sustainability of projects.
Early, strategic-scale planning based on sound science and social engagement can optimize infrastructure development, helping avoid costly post hoc changes and minimizing environmental impacts. With better planning, natural infrastructure can take the place of traditional built solutions and provide ancillary benefits for climate, biodiversity, and resilience. Innovations in science-based design options can enable nature's flows to be maintained as infrastructure needs are met. Better understanding of environmental risks can spur public and private finance to demand more sustainable options. Provisions for compensation for any remaining environmental impacts can fund offsetting conservation. Practical solutions and good models exist. It is time to pull them together and drive a shift in global norms toward building a sustainable infrastructure future.