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Forward Planning and Investment: How Sustainable Infrastructure Can Tackle Climate Change and Inequality

Date
01 May 2020

ICE’s President, Paul Sheffield, chaired the latest ICE Strategy Session, which explored the role of infrastructure in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Forward Planning and Investment: How Sustainable Infrastructure Can Tackle Climate Change and Inequality

The world needs a sustainable, public-focused infrastructure plan if the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are to be met by 2030.

That was one of the takeaway messages from Steven Crosskey, Head of Strategic Initiatives at UNOPS, when he spoke at the second of the newly launched online ICE Strategy Sessions this week to an audience of over 500 people. Crosskey was also keen to highlight that, without investment to meet the $97 trillion infrastructure funding challenge, the 17 goals agreed to by all members of the United Nations will not be met.

As a member of the steering group that developed the Enabling Better Infrastructure Programme last year, he highlighted the infrastructure accessibility gap that exists around the world, with over 900 million people lacking access to electricity and more than half of the world, 4.2 billion people, unable to access proper sanitation, something that is particularly vital in the current context of a global pandemic.

When it comes to tackling climate change, he acknowledged that while building more infrastructure can lead to higher emissions, it also remains part of the solution, particularly around adaptation, where we need to increase the resilience of our infrastructure to meet the new challenges of a changing climate.

A slide from the session demonstrating infrastructure’s intrinsic role in Sustainable Development Goals.
A slide from the session demonstrating infrastructure’s intrinsic role in Sustainable Development Goals.

He also praised the Enabling Better Infrastructure Programme’s Twelve Guiding Principles for Planning and Prioritising Infrastructure, using a recent example of UNOPS work in St Lucia to demonstrate all twelve in action as well as the positive impact it has had on the country.

Joining him for the discussion was Mark Harvey, Head of Profession (Infrastructure and Urban) at the UK Department for International Development (DfID), which oversees the Government’s response to the SDGs from both a domestic and international perspective, as well as Stephen Perkins, Head of Research and Policy Analysis, International Transport Forum at the OECD.

Perkins also highlighted that getting infrastructure right doesn’t just impact the goals that have clear links, noting that successful strategies will have wider impacts on areas such as the economy. He cited the example of the goal to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages and the specific targets for improving road safety contained within it.

By getting member states to agree to increase the standards of all new roads to a minimum of three stars, as set out by the International Road Safety Assessment Programme (iRAP), it will help achieve the target of reducing the 1.35 million deaths worldwide by 50 per cent. If three quarters of travel is undertaken on three-star, or better, roads by the end of the decade it will save over 450,000 lives every year. Over 20 years it will save more than 100 million lives and serious injuries, delivering more than £8 of benefits for every £1 invested.

Amid the pressing challenge of Covid-19, the panellists were asked whether they felt the pandemic would have a longer-term impact on the way we use public transport. There was broad agreement that things won’t return to the way they were before the crisis in the near future and that there was a need to think about what that means for the way countries plan their future infrastructure.

  • Vanessa Furey, Campaigns & Public Affairs Manager, ICE