Webinar: “Reassessing Sustainable Infrastructure in Light of Covid-19”
Against the backdrop of the current multidimensional health, economic and social crisis, experts from The Solutions Lab: Scaling for Sustainable Infrastructure reconvened virtually to discuss implications of COViD-19 for the sustainable infrastructure agenda. The webinar also served to prepare a Global Table for the 2020 Digital Global Solutions Summit on “COVID-19 & the Reinforced Case for Sustainable Infrastructure: Mobilizing Infrastructure Investments as Catalysts for Net Zero & SDG Delivery”.
Throughout the discussion, it became clear that the outbreak of COVID-19 brutally exposed weaknesses in existing infrastructure systems: “grey infrastructure” expansion and the associated destruction of ecosystems facilitate the spread of zoonotic diseases, whilst excessive reliance on just-in-time infrastructure increases our vulnerability to any global shocks. Participants emphasized that to “build back better”, governments need to get serious about the health implications of land-use decisions and start valuing nature conservation for its crucial public benefits.
At the same time, participants underscored that sustainable infrastructure is part of any successful response to the crisis, too: Whilst in the short-term, investments in infrastructure are critical to economic recovery and job creation, the delivery of key public services from health infrastructure to water and sanitation facilities will increase pandemic resilience in the long-term. Currently, however, there was a very real danger that “business as usual” stimuli threaten to lock-in unsustainable technologies for decades to come. What was needed today are “shovel-ready investments” into sustainable solutions and policies to align them with long-term objectives like the elimination fossil fuel subsidies, substantive carbon pricing and macro-fiscal frameworks supportive of transformation.
Against this backdrop, one participant outlined his organization’s ongoing effort to using AI and data brokerage to show how countries could take a systems approach to design stimulus packages which reduce future pandemic and climate risks whilst simultaneously delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Next, participants zoomed in on transport as a sector hard hit by COViD-19, as global demand collapses, operational costs increase and transportation disruptions threaten the sustainability of basic supply chains. One participant pointed to digital infrastructure as a potential silver lining for it helps coping with social distancing and economic impact. In the short term, she emphasized, we must provide governments with timely advice to undertake COVID-19 impact assessments for PPPs under stress scenarios, to identify fiscal impacts and support national PPP units in crisis management.
Looking ahead, speakers elaborated on the Solutions Lab’s potential to tease out a specific COVID-19 narrative on both policy and project preparation for sustainable infrastructure development, not least to contribute to the newly founded T20 Task Force on “Covid-19: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Complex Problems”. In this respect, several speakers voiced the need for the Lab to focus on providing guidance on shovel ready investments in sustainable infrastructure, while taking a holistic perspective from upstream considerations to concrete investment guidance.
Read the extended webinar notes here.