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Infrastructure Policy Watch: Infrastructure Australia outlines principles to drive sustainability outcomes

20 April 2021

- Infrastructure Australia provides new sustainability principles
- India’s Parliament approves new infrastructure bank
- More detail on $2 trillion US infrastructure plan

Infrastructure Policy Watch: Infrastructure Australia outlines principles to drive sustainability outcomes

In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan to outline sustainability reforms

In a recent publication, Infrastructure Australia announced a set of new sustainability principles. These aim to balance outcomes from infrastructure across the four areas - social, economic, environmental and governance - without harming future generations and the planet.

It establishes principles across, and within, each area of infrastructure, as well as outlining factors that can drive good outcomes. For example, the principle for environmental sustainability that has been adopted is:

“Infrastructure and policies should protect environmental outcomes by reducing pollution, balancing resource consumption, conserving natural ecosystems and resources, and supporting climate mitigation and adaptation.”

And the factors that can drive good outcomes are set out in the table below:

Infrastructure Australia has committed to embedding these components throughout their work programme, including the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, Infrastructure Audit, annual Priority List, and wider framework for assessment.

ICE’s view:

The second Enabling Better Infrastructure principle highlights the Sustainable Development Goals as providing a baseline for setting strategic objectives for infrastructure. It is good to see this being taken into account by Infrastructure Australia to set sustainability outcomes and principles for Australia’s infrastructure development.

Indian Parliament approves creation of an infrastructure bank

The Indian Parliament has passed an Act to establish the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure.

In just a week, following an announcement alongside the Indian Union Budget, this bank would be the primary development financing institution of Indian infrastructure.

The Indian Government will initially own all the shares in the bank; however, other organisations, such as sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurers, and multilateral institutions, will be invited to provide share capital. The bank will have a remit to lend, invest or attract investment for projects in sectors prescribed by the central government.

ICE’s view:

One of many ‘infrastructure banks’ being set up around the world, the opportunity to attract private finance is significant. However, greater certainty will be needed on the types of projects the bank can invest in. The Bill outlines that "infrastructure" will be defined by central government, and that this definition can change from ‘time to time’. This means there remains the risk for scope creep unless a more robust definition can be developed.

US infrastructure plan takes shape

Outlining his “once-in-a-generation investment” plan, the US President highlighted the aim to create jobs in the short-term, while improving economic competitiveness in the long-term. The $2 trillion plan seeks to repair 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, fight climate change and promote racial equality in the economy.

The plan also takes a broad definition of infrastructure, incorporating education, elderly care, training and research and development through direct programmes and tax subsidies, for example a $400bn clean energy tax credit for companies.

In a previous Infrastructure Policy Watch, we outlined that quality of infrastructure was a significant issue in the United States. This plan aims to fix that, albeit without a detailed needs assessment.

ICE’s view:

The next significant challenge will be how to fund the plan, with the current mix of debt and tax increases needing approval by the US Congress. America will need to start thinking about infrastructure development in a more long-term and sustained way, however this plan seems set up to be a one-off coming with no new planning or decision-making structures.

In case you missed it...

  • Think-tank Onward outlined for us how to align net-zero with the levelling-up agenda
  • Five years on from the National Infrastructure Commission being created, is the process geared up to meet future challenges? – Have your say on our ongoing call for evidence on UK strategic infrastructure planning
  • How do roadbuilding projects create CO2 emissions and what can be done to reduce them? – an ICE overview

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers