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A new analysis has found that as much as 72% of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will rely on infrastructure systems.

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.

Although the deadline for the SDG targets’ is only in 2030, massive global infrastructure investments worth $2.3 trillion per year have the potential to lock-in patterns of unsustainable development for years to come.

Sustainable infrastructure

Sustainable infrastructure is better-designed and will save money in the long-term, explains Jim Hall, co-author of the report and Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at the University of Oxford.

“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,” he says.

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 concludes, “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.”

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