Infrastructure is the backbone upon which our lives, societies and economies function. Roads and rails bring people to work and school; pipelines convey water from rivers and reservoirs to homes and factories; electricity grids link energy producers to consumers; and cables and computers transmit electrons at the speed of light allowing people to communicate instantly from thousands of kilometers away. Infrastructure is everywhere, but its business-as-usual development has had a profound and devastating impact on the planet. There is an urgent need to invest in more sustainable infrastructure to meet societies’ needs and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Sustainable Infrastructure includes built or natural systems that provide a range of services in a manner that ensures economic, financial, social, environmental, and institutional sustainability – both in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and over the entire infrastructure lifecycle – from strategic planning all the way to decommissioning & repurposing. Those services include energy, water, transportation, communication, flood protection, and other valuable resources necessary for a society and its economy to function.
As the definition shows, sustainable infrastructure doesn’t necessarily refer to any specific type of infrastructure in any specific sector; it actually refers to the outcomes of infrastructure development. Sustainability is not black and white, but a continuum – all infrastructure can be more or less sustainable by degrees, although there are of course certain differences that can have more impacts than others. For example: