When funding the roads, bridges, power plants, water supplies, and ports that power economic growth, investors 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:
- Lower carbon and environmental footprints
- Conserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity
- Optimize the use of nature-based infrastructure
- Move beyond compliance on core labour and human rights standards
- Trigger technological and industrial innovation across value chains
- Spur investment in education, skill building, and R&D
- Increase long-term employment
- Are financially viable
- Crowd in domestic investors and businesses
- Increase opportunities for foreign direct investment
- Optimize value for money for taxpayers and investors across the asset life cycle
Infrastructure investment is a powerful driver of economic activity. Done right, it holds enormous potential for alleviating poverty, improving access to basic services, creating employment and business, and ultimately contributing 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 ageing public assets.
IISD provides research and advisory services on infrastructure and project finance. We help policy-makers and their many stakeholders appreciate the technical dynamics of investing in both large and small projects and help develop their skills in managing project and infrastructure finance.
IISD also focuses on natural infrastructure, defined as an area or system that is either naturally occurring or naturalized and then intentionally managed to provide multiple benefits or "ecosystem services" for the environment and human well-being.
We are working to advance the conversation around implementing and financing natural infrastructure in Canada and around the world.
The Nature-Based Infrastructure Global Resource Centre
The leading global hub for nature-based infrastructure (NBI). Together, we can help build a better, fairer, and more sustainable future through NBI projects.
Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi)
A simulation tool to calculate the costs of risks and externalities, SAVi is built on systems dynamics and project finance models customized to projects, portfolios and policies.
Sustainable Infrastructure Programme in Asia (SIPA)
SIPA provides countries in Central and Southeast Asia with capacity development and policy advice at different stages of the infrastructure investment cycle.
Accelerating Decarbonization Through the Power of Procurement
This project supports the dissemination of the CO2 Performance Ladder, a tool for low-carbon procurement and carbon management. Widespread green public procurement with the CO2 Performance Ladder can speed up the decarbonization of companies, projects, and supply chains and help governments meet their climate commitments.
Using Systemic Approaches and Simulation to Support Transformation Toward Sustainable Mobility
This project aims to drive investments under post-pandemic recovery plans and development strategies towards transformation in the mobility and transport sector.
NATALIE - Nature-based Solutions to Enhance Resilience to Climate Change
NATALIE focuses on advancing ecosystem-based adaptation in Europe, combined with climate-resilient development pathways, developing impactful nature-based solutions (NbS) to accelerate and mainstream the adoption of NbS for climate change resilience.
Learn more about natural infrastructure
Natural Infrastructure for Water Solutions (NIWS)
Put simply, it’s about looking after nature, so nature can look after us.
Nature-based solutions—solutions that involve working with nature to address societal challenges—have gained momentum as a tool that can deliver multiple benefits.
Nature for Climate Adaptation Initiative
A new initiative aims to support nature-based climate action that protects livelihoods and biodiversity in the most vulnerable parts of the world.
Director, Sustainable Infrastructure
Lead, Public Procurement and Sustainable Infrastructure and Coordinator of the NBI Global Resource Centre
Lead, Sustainable Finance
Policy Analyst, Sustainable Finance
Senior Project Manager
Vice-President, Global Strategies and Managing Director, Europe
A Sustainable Asset Valuation of the Tirana–Durres Railway in Albania
This report presents the economic valuation of the Tirana–Durres railway in Albania, including its investment costs, added benefits, and avoided costs.
A Sustainable Asset Valuation of a Net-Zero Transport Strategy in Indonesia
This report presents the economic valuation of net-zero transport strategies in Indonesia—their investment costs, added benefits, and avoided costs—encompassing interventions such as investments in public transport, private vehicle electrification, teleworking, and decarbonization of the electricity supply.
A Sustainable Asset Valuation of the FAME II policy in India
This report presents the economic valuation of the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric (& Hybrid) Vehicles (FAME II) policy in India and demonstrates its economic, social, and environmental outcomes under different scenarios.
Essential Monitor's Guide for Prairie Water Retention
This guidance document aims to make water retention monitoring a more accessible practice from a technical standpoint by demystifying some of the considerations required to get started.
Navigating Decisions: The risks to Mozambique from liquified natural gas export projects
A brief highlighting that the multiple risks with LNG export projects in Mozambique undermine their expected contribution to economic development.
The promise of nature-based infrastructure
In a world grappling with climate change and rapid urbanisation, the role of infrastructure in driving economic and social development cannot be overstated. Global infrastructure needs are immense, with Oxford Economics estimating that a staggering $3.7tn investment is needed annually. To close this gap, countries must increase the proportion of their GDP dedicated to infrastructure. Yet considering that infrastructure is responsible for 79% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Office for Project Services, it is imperative that new projects not only bridge the infrastructure gap, but do so sustainably and with a low carbon footprint.
A Strategic Vision for Enhancing Naturalized Water Retention in Manitoba
Enhancing water retention infrastructure in Manitoba can provide numerous benefits, especially if it is naturalized and is located, designed, and maintained strategically.
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