CREATING NEXT GENERATION INFRASTRUCTURE: “By harnessing the power of nature, infrastructure services can be provided at a lower cost while delivering greater impact,” wrote Andrew Steer in the foreword to a landmark report on integrating green and gray infrastructure (March 2019)

Note to Reader:

Released in March 2019, “Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure” is a joint report from the World Bank and the World Resources Institute (WRI) that aims to advance the integration of green and gray infrastructure solutions on the ground. 

This report is essential reading for those responsible for delivering infrastructure services. Water and power utilities, storm and flood management agencies, and irrigation departments can use the guidelines to integrate natural approaches into their plans.

Public officials can learn to how to enable green-gray infrastructure development through improved policies, laws, and regulations. Ministries of Finance and Budget can gain insights on how to approach financing, often a major barrier for infrastructure, by opening new financing channels from mission-driven investors and governments.

To download a copy, click on “Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure”. And watch the report launch:

Integrating Green and Gray

“Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure” places a spotlight on the world’s growing infrastructure crisis, driven by climate change and growing populations. The World Bank and World Resources Institute are calling for green infrastructure to play a bigger role in traditional infrastructure planning.

Putting Nature to Work

The World Bank Group aims to elevate the role of natural infrastructure across its operations. It has committed to leveraging its finance to catalyze potentially billions of additional dollars from public and private sources for climate adaptation. To meet its ambitious goals in this area, ensuring that infrastructure performs well under a changing climate will be essential to success.

This landmark report proposes insights, solutions and examples for putting nature to work. It examines the technical, environmental, social and economic dimensions of a typical project assessment but also outlines, with new clarity and detail, the enabling conditions required to facilitate successful implementation of green-gray projects.

Inspirational in its call to action, the report states that the next generation of infrastructure can help drive economies and strengthen communities and the environment. But this needs governments, the stewardship sector and service providers to work together to amplify the benefits of natural solutions.

The report aligns with the vision and guiding principles for the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP), an initiative led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. The ‘big idea’ underpinning EAP is that community well-being and quality of life depend on an equal commitment to the natural commons and constructed commons. This is the essence of a whole-system approach.

Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) – Nature cannot be sliced and diced to suit land development

“The Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of natural assets. These resources provide numerous public benefits in the form of ecological services. EAP also calculates the dollar value of the land occupied by the natural commons, thus providing a basis for budgeting maintenance and enhancement expenditures,” states Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.

Also, EAP findings can contribute to strategy and plans for asset management. (As illustrated above) the natural commons has a corollary – namely, the constructed commons. In all communities, the constructed commons utilizes ecological systems for aesthetic purposes and infrastructure needs; and the constructed commons benefits from the ambience of ecological services. Yet the worth of ecological services remain obscure in land use practices.”

Co-Benefits for Communities Make Next Generation Infrastructure Successful

Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based solutions (NBS) is an umbrella term referring to “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.

Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure shows how weaving the power of ‘green’ natural systems, including flood plains and forests, into ‘gray’ traditional infrastructure systems can lower cost and increase resilience. “If we help nature, then nature can help us – that’s the message of this report,” said Interim President (Feb 2019 through April 2019) of the World Bank Group Kristalina Georgieva.

“21st century challenges require innovative solutions and utilizing all the tools at our disposal,” states Greg Browder, World Bank Global Lead for Water Security & Lead Author. “And integrating ‘green’ natural systems like forests, wetlands and flood plains into ‘gray’ infrastructure system shows how nature can lie at the heart of sustainable development. Integrating Green & Gray – Creating Next-Generation Infrastructure provides guidance on how to do just that.”

Meeting the Infrastructure Investment Gap

“Green infrastructure can be cheaper and more resilient than gray infrastructure alone – and it can produce substantial benefits beyond what the balance sheets measure,” states Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “These nature-based solutions can help us meet the infrastructure investment gap in a cost-effective manner, while lifting up local communities with benefits in their backyards. We’re at a climate inflection point, and in the midst of an infrastructure crisis. Now more than ever, the world must tap into nature’s wealth.

“The world has huge infrastructure needs for economic growth, jobs, and poverty reduction. In developing countries, achieving the infrastructure related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and staying on track to limit global temperature increase to two degrees could cost 4.5 percent to 8 percent of GDP, depending on how efficiently it is done. A traditional focus on exclusively human built ‘gray’ infrastructure would put costs at the higher end of that spectrum and make it more challenging to meet these needs.

“But this challenge also provides an incentive to take advantage of an opportunity we have always had: using “green” systems such as forests, wetlands, and mangroves to complement gray infrastructure. By harnessing the power of nature, infrastructure services can be provided at a lower cost while delivering greater impact.”