A new analysis published in Nature Sustainability has found that the majority of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – global targets relating to poverty, health, the environment, peace and justice – will rely on infrastructure systems.
Whilst the SDG targets’ deadline of 2030 may seem a long way off, massive global infrastructure investments worth $2.3 trillion per year have the potential to lock-in patterns of unsustainable development for years to come.
The report – a collaboration between the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), the UN, the World Bank and other international partners – shows how planning decisions around energy, water, waste management, transport and telecommunications systems could decide the success or failure of the SDGs.
Sustainable infrastructure is better-designed and will save money in the long-term, explains co-author and Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at the University of Oxford, Jim Hall:
“Sustainable infrastructure serves the needs of people and works with nature, keeping us on track to bring carbon emissions to zero and designed to be resilient to climatic extremes and other shocks.
“It is better to build in sustainability from the start – right now – rather than having to apply costly retrofits later.”
To ensure the right infrastructure decisions are made now, policy makers need to establish long-term visions for sustainable national infrastructure systems, informed by the SDGs, and develop adaptable plans then can demonstrably deliver their vision. Lead author Dr Scott Thacker (ECI Honorary Research Associate and UNOPS Senior Analyst) comments:
“Using the SDGs as a common framework, this research provides governments and their development partners with key evidence to make better-informed infrastructure decisions – helping to ensure a more sustainable future for all.”