There is a positive connection between infrastructure and sustainable development. Roughly 70% of greenhouse gases have been linked to the building and running of infrastructure, and it’s estimated that buildings only make up for more than 30% of global resource utilization and energy end-use. The WHO reported that the yearly fatalities caused by emissions from key infrastructure industries will increase from the current 150,000 to 250,000 by 2030.
To determine whether ceasing all building of infrastructure is the route to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and rescuing the planet, let’s analyze the relationship between the SDGs and sustainable infrastructure more thoroughly.
Sustainable infrastructure for achieving Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, all members of the United Nations decided upon a program of sustainability that was built around the 17 SDGs. The purpose of these goals is to bring peace and success to people and the environment, and they must be realized by 2030. It is evident that both SDG 9, titled Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 11, dubbed Sustainable Cities and Communities, are concerned with infrastructure.
We require a variety of infrastructures in order to provide essential services and support our economies. Access to water, sanitation and energy are all fundamental to human wellbeing (SDG 3, 4, 6 and 7), economic growth (SDG 8) and the eradication of poverty (SDG 1). In order to adhere to the 2030 Agenda, strategically planned urban infrastructure, such as smart public transportation, green and energy-efficient buildings and green spaces, are essential for the success of rapidly growing cities.
A solution to help reach the SDGs is not to cease building infrastructure, but to modify the plans and design it in a manner that is beneficial. One part of the answer can be found in the form of sustainable or low-carbon infrastructure.
Another solution can be found in lean manufacturing. Studies have found that the implementation of lean manufacturing helps to minimize waste and pollution, which is in line with its core concept of zero waste. By decreasing operational waste such as discarded materials, energy and water, emissions of contaminants are cut down. Furthermore, lean production’s waste reduction objectives, such as the avoidance of superfluous transportation of products or raw materials, bring both financial and environmental benefits due to the lower use of resources and operational costs, and the reduction of inventory.
Additionally, cities that utilize lean systems are likely to accept environmental innovations. Lean practices may lead to less pollution by lessening the marginal cost of activities targeting pollution reduction, or by lowering the cost of finding new pollution prevention methods. Enrolling in a master lean manufacturing online program, such as the one offered by Kettering University Online, will provide students with an insight into the principles behind lean systems and how modern techniques are used to make a positive impact on the environment.
What is sustainable infrastructure?
Sustainable infrastructure involves an approach that takes into account a wide range of factors throughout its lifespan. Economic and financial aspects must be considered, of course, but there is also a need to be aware of potential risks, such as debt and fiscal sustainability. Social, environmental (including climate resilience) and institutional sustainability must also be kept in mind when planning, designing, constructing, operating and decommissioning sustainable infrastructure.
Infrastructure that is sustainable can assist in developing resilience in nations and guarding against the consequences of extreme climate change events. A good example is railway infrastructure that diminishes the amount of carbon-producing trucks. There is a great need for this kind of infrastructure and a global desire for increased economic development, both in countries that are more developed and those that are still developing.
Sustainable infrastructure describes the set-up of vital structures such as highways, bridges, telephone towers and hydroelectric power stations that are designed to provide essential services to the public while following sustainable practices on all levels. This involves taking into consideration all aspects of sustainability, such as economic, financial, social and institutional elements.
As cities rapidly expand, particularly in developing nations, sustainable infrastructure is demonstrating its value as an effective, productive and eco-friendly solution. In addition, the World Bank has found that these infrastructures are more financially beneficial due to their dependable services and increased resistance to extreme weather conditions, as well as their ability to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on people and the economy.
People, economies and the environment
Infrastructure can bring multiple advantages to different fields and can result in enhancements in three areas: economics, society and the environment.
The implementation of sustainable infrastructure is necessary for all social SDGs to be achieved. Enhancing access to essential services is one of the primary goals of infrastructure development, and infrastructure that is sustainable and combines electricity, transportation, clean water and sanitation has a direct correlation with the reduction of poverty.
Infrastructural investments can be beneficial for economic growth, as they generate employment, income and trading opportunities, and new services and assets. Utilizing local materials and labor can also help to improve the local economy and decrease poverty.
Ultimately, it is well-known that in order to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a switch to sustainable energy is necessary, and this requires extensive investment in new infrastructure. This is the only way to limit climate change to a manageable level.
The battle against climate change necessitates the use of sustainable infrastructure. By the year 2030, it is estimated that a total of $90tn must be invested in sustainable infrastructure, as articulated by the New Climate Economy. This investment is not only vital to upgrade aging equipment in developed countries and help them in their struggle against climate change, but is also essential for green economic development in emerging markets and underdeveloped nations.
Climate change can be braced against by cities that have a sustainable infrastructure. 9,000 years ago, the city of Jerico had the highest population density, with just 2,000 people – a figure that is minor in comparison to the massive megalopolises that we have today, such as Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai. Based on the most recent survey conducted by the United Nations, it is projected that in 2030, more cities and megacities housing 60% of the world’s population will exist than ever before.
The impact of cities on global warming
It is clear that cities have a significant role to play in the issue of climate change. With the amount of pollution, energy consumption and other human activities taking place in urban areas, it is no surprise that cities have a major impact on the rate of global warming. This is why it is important that cities take action to reduce their carbon footprints and work to become more sustainable.
The urban expansion brings many advantages to its inhabitants, yet it also throws off the equilibrium in terms of social, economic and ecological facets. The United Nations has pointed out that 70% of global emissions of greenhouse gases originate from urban regions, largely due to their inadequate layout and lack of public transit systems and energy consumption.
The United Nations’ SDG 9 has proposed a type of city that is more sustainable, compact and able to resist the damages of climate change. These cities would function on the basis of being more inclusive, green and sustainable, which would be beneficial for the economic progress and the wellbeing of its citizens.
Importance of sustainable urban development
The New Urban Agenda (NUA), created by the United Nations, emphasizes the need for sustainable urban development. This document suggests that cities should use planning, development, governance and administration that are based on advances in design, legislation, and economic and urban policies to undergo their transformation. In the future, all cities should be mindful of the NUA’s recommendations.
The New Climate Economy estimates that if the Paris Agreement is achieved by 2050, sustainable urban development will have saved the planet $17tn. In order to do so, decarbonization of the economy and an energy transition to renewable sources are encouraged.
Examples of countries practicing sustainability in infrastructure
Two cases of sustainable infrastructure are displayed below, one located in a developed nation and the other in a developing one.
Nestled in Northern Europe is the land of Denmark, a country renowned for its culture and history. This Scandinavian nation is bordered by the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, Germany and Sweden. Its capital, Copenhagen, is a bustling metropolis full of life and activity, and the country has a robust economy and a high standard of living. With its picturesque countryside, vibrant cities and centuries-old architecture, Denmark is a popular destination for travelers and tourists alike.
In the city of Copenhagen, the 2012 Cloudburst Plan was formulated to consider potential climatic conditions when constructing infrastructures such as roads, bridges and industrial buildings. This plan included measures to adapt to extreme rainfall, such as increasing drainage capacity and water discharge into the sea through tunnels and roads, as well as installing anti-flooding mechanisms on the buildings.
The global economy can be accessed by emerging nations by having the infrastructure in place. Transportation and intermodal structures that are effective will provide the means for local producers to be able to market their products to the outside world.
A country in the continent of Africa, Kenya is known for its diverse wildlife and beautiful landscape. Home to a wide range of cultures and traditions, this nation is a popular destination for tourists. It also has a vibrant economic landscape with a variety of industries from farming and tourism to manufacturing and technology. Its capital, Nairobi, is a bustling metropolis and one of the largest cities in Africa. With its stunning scenery and fascinating cultures, Kenya is an amazing place to explore.
In Kenya, the Olkaria power plant was built with the objective of decreasing the nation’s dependence on hydropower. This has caused geothermal energy to be the majority of the energy mix in Kenya, as reported by the World Bank. Geothermal energy is integral to Kenya’s plan to reduce poverty by providing more access to dependable and clean energy. Diariétou Gaye, the World Bank’s country director for Kenya, remarked that the energy sector is “a major infrastructure investment in the fight against poverty”.
In 2021, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to assemble the global environmental community for an extensive international environmental gathering in Stockholm, Sweden on June 2 and 3, 2022, which coincides with World Environment Day.
Leaders were presented with a unique opportunity to draw on a half-century of global environmental efforts so as to take decisive, immediate steps to assure a better future on a healthy planet.
At the event, multilateralism was acknowledged as a crucial component of dealing with the Earth’s threefold planetary emergency – climate, nature and pollution – to hasten the implementation of the UN Decade of Action with the aim of accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Benefits of a sustainable infrastructure
Investing in the modernization of urban infrastructure with more sustainable elements could create a more livable and inclusive environment. This would necessitate a worldwide expenditure of trillions of dollars in the coming years, but with the right approach, it could also be a major contributor to economic expansion.
To illustrate, here are the primary advantages of embracing sustainable infrastructure.
Lessening the ecological and carbon footprint
The New Climate Economy reports that if we implement better urban planning with increased sustainable infrastructure, we could reduce the planet’s CO2 emissions by an estimated 3.7 gigatons annually over the next 15 years.
Encouraging the use of renewable energy sources is something that needs to be taken seriously. It is essential that we promote the use of these resources so that people can benefit from them in the long run. By doing so, we can ensure that we are taking steps to protect our environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
A decarbonized economy in combination with a decentralized and digitalized electric grid could potentially give access to electricity to the one billion people currently without it.
Creating green employment opportunities
Generating job opportunities that are sustainable and environmentally friendly is a goal that is actively being pursued. By 2030, the number of green jobs in the renewable energy sector is predicted to reach 20 million, an eightfold increase from the current figure of 2.3 million.
Encouraging the development of a sustainable economy
Constructing infrastructure with longevity and sustainability in mind is an integral part of the new economy focusing on climate and environmental protection.
Leveling the playing field
Currently, the infrastructure in developing nations is deficient in providing basic services such as running water, sanitation and transportation, whereas sustainable solutions could be a possible answer.