New World Bank report discusses policies to achieve sustainable infrastructure

The SDG Knowledge Hub of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) provides a review by Delia Paul of a new report from the World Bank on sustainable infrastructure.

 

World Bank Finds Efficiency and Quality of Spending Key to Sustainable Infrastructure

A World Bank report presents policy mixes that could enable low- and middle-income countries to achieve the infrastructure-related aspects of the SDGs by 2030.

The report finds that new infrastructure could cost between 2-8% of GDP annually to 2030, and aims to shift the focus away from spending more to “spending better”.

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can achieve the infrastructure-related targets in the SDGs by spending no more than 4.5% of GDP, according to World Bank estimates. Its report titled, ‘Beyond the Gap: How Countries Can Afford the Infrastructure They Need While Protecting the Planet,’ argues that sustainable infrastructure need not cost more than unsustainable alternatives, and presents policy mixes that could enable LMICs to achieve the infrastructure-related aspects of the SDGs by 2030.

Based on assessing and comparing various scenarios and policy mixes, the report finds that new infrastructure could cost between 2-8% of GDP annually to 2030, but that much will depend on countries’ policy objectives and the efficiency of their spending.

The 199-page publication argues that, with the right policy choices on infrastructure investment, LMICs can successfully limit the global average temperature increase to 2°C above preindustrial levels as well as achieve universal access to water and sanitation (SDG 6), electricity (SDG 7), greater mobility (SDG target 11.2 on sustainable transport systems), better food security (SDG 2), better flood protection (SDG target 11.5 on reducing the impacts of water-related disasters), and eventual full decarbonization (SDG 13). The report offers a framework for assessing investment needs to achieve these goals.

For example, the report suggests that adopting low-cost technology in the form of septic tanks would bring sanitation to populations that currently do not have it, while providing an institutional basis for later phasing in conventional sewerage and wastewater treatment, in line with SDG target 6.2 on sanitation. Other aspects of effective investment in infrastructure include ensuring a steady flow of resources for operations and maintenance, and focusing on the desired policy outcomes, rather than only on the choice of technology.

Overall, the report aims to shift the focus away from spending more to “spending better,” based on relevant metrics. It argues that to fully realize the potential gains from investing in new infrastructure, governments must implement policies to promote equity of access to services, and distribute the gains fairly across society.

The report is available here.

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