UN Expert Group Meeting
Bangkok, 11-13 June 2007
Smart, sufficient and sustainable infrastructure systems
Dr David Ness
Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies/
School of Natural and Built Environments
University of South Australia
2. What are the challenges?
2.1 What are the basic needs that infrastructure supports?
2.2 The role played by infrastructure and its importance
2.3 The challenge of urbanization
2.4 The critical role of infrastructure in meeting sustainability targets
2.5 What is sustainable urban infrastructure development?
2.6 Potential for application of eco-efficiency principles
2.7 Innovation through systems thinking
2.8 Intervention opportunities: the Development Account Project
3. What has been done? What is missing?
3.1 Initiatives to promote sustainable urban infrastructure development
3.2 Integrated planning for land use and infrastructure
3.3 Distributed versus centralized systems
3.4 Some examples of good practices and their characteristics
3.5 What are current processes for financing infrastructure?
3.6 What are some policy initiatives?
3.7 What is missing? Limitations of current approaches
4. What are the key issues in bridging the gaps and shifting policies?
4.1 The key issues in accomplishing the shift
4.2 Barriers to bridging the gaps
4.3 How can integrated approaches lead to more sustainable infrastructure?
4.4 How can eco-efficiency concepts be applied to planning and assessment?
4.5 How can social inclusiveness impact on eco-efficiency and sustainability?
4.6 Financing, pricing and user charges
4.7 Innovative funding mechanisms including CDM
4.8 Governance, policies and institutional arrangements
5. What should the Development Account Project focus upon and how?
5.1 Identify key areas of project intervention to remove barriers
5.2 Propose strategic partners and modalities for implementation
5.3 Specific areas/ sectors of intervention eg water and sanitation, energy, transport, urban planning
5.4 The Development Account Project
6. Concluding remarks: questions arising
B. Persons consulted
C. Organizations and Initiatives
D. Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, University of South Australia
E. Interdependencies among Infrastructures
F. Systems Approach
G. Design Principles for Goa 2100
List of Figures
Fig. 1 Three Ecological Footprint scenarios
Fig. 2 Lifespans of people, assets and infrastructure
Fig. 3 Asia-Pacific’s Ecological Footprint
Fig. 4 South Australia Sectoral Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Fig. 5 Sustainable Urban Infrastructure System
Fig. 6 Model of Cities: Alternative Urban Forms
Fig. 7 Mechanism of Economic Development Influences on the Environment
Fig. 8 Reimagining the City of Panjim, India
Fig. 9 BedZED One Planet Living
Fig. 10 Integrated Transport, Energy, Water and Housing Infrastructure Corridor
Fig. 11 Linear Infrastructure
Fig. 12 Sustainable Urban Infrastructure
Fig. 13 Stabilization Wedges
Authorship of this paper
Dr David Ness is an Adjunct Research Fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies (ISST) and the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia (see Annexe D). Among others, researchers from ISST and other groups within the University have contributed greatly to this paper.
The preparation of this paper has been a voyage of discovery, much assisted by University of South Australia colleagues and others mentioned in Annexe B. Members of the Environment and Sustainable Development Division of ESCAP, headed by Mr Rae Kwon Chung, have also guided me on this journey, with special thanks to Mr Lorenzo Santucci, Associate Environmental Affairs Officer, with whom I was in regular communication and who (with his associates) provided valuable information and direction. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Office of Major Projects and Infrastructure, South Australian Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure. Special thanks are also due to Dr Barbara Hardy and the APFED (SA) Group (see Annexe B). Finally, this paper is dedicated to my mother, Mrs Doreen Ness.
This is a background paper for an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Sustainable Infrastructure Development (SID) being held in Bangkok, 11-13 June, 2007. The meeting is intended to define the scope of a UN Development Account (DA) project on ’Eco-Efficient and Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Development in Asia and Latin America‘, involving the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. So the document has been framed with this project in mind.
Importantly, the paper does not seek to prescribe definitive solutions, but rather to open up a range of possibilities and opportunities, with the intention of facilitating discussion at the EGM. The document also seeks to build upon the previous Seoul Policy Forum.
Firstly, the key challenges are outlined, due to increasing urbanization and the consequential increases in environmental degradation and excessive resource exploitation. In particular, it highlights need to achieve Factor 4 resource productivity, involving a doubling of wealth and a halving of resource consumption, coupled with emissions reduction targets and reduced ecological footprint. The critical contribution of SID to achieving these targets (hereto underestimated) is described, and a definition of SID presented. This revolves around achieving integrated economic, social and environment development and considering life cycle resource use and impacts. Next follows a review of SID initiatives, with identification of the gaps and further effort required to respond to the enormity of the challenges. The key issues in achieving the necessary shift in attitudes, policies and practices are then outlined. Finally, suggestions are made for the focus, scope and conduct of the DA project.
It is suggested that an important first stage of the DA Project should be to undertake a high-level scan across the region in relation to SID status and opportunities. This mapping could help determine the biggest opportunities for intervention to improve resource productivity and meet MDGs such as poverty alleviation. Any pilot cities could then be selected and conducted in this wider context.
It is already apparent that some key opportunities for making a difference lie in improving the capacity of policy-makers, planners and decision-makers. To improve their awareness, it will be necessary to devise measures for SID and to demonstrate its importance and value-adding potential. A key strategy is to integrate various infrastructure programmes so that multiple objectives may be achieved for a given resource consumption. Essentially, this involves doing more with less.
An important concept put forward is that infrastructure should be seen as a system to facilitate the delivery of services. This enables, for example, a road to be viewed within the context of a transport system, with an understanding of its connectivity to other elements and to other systems. The introduction of systems thinking opens up opportunities for innovation and reform, which is very necessary to achieve the paradigm shift required to meet Factor 4 and associated targets.
A related objective of the DA project is to reinforce the sustainability of infrastructure in terms of disaster protection. The paper briefly explains how disaster risk assessments may be incorporated into strategic urban planning and infrastructure provision. Mapping of eco-efficiency may also be integrated with mapping of disaster-prone areas.
This led to the title of this paper, ‘Smart, sufficient and sustainable infrastructure systems’: Smart in terms of creative thinking and the concept of ‘intelligent infrastructure’; sufficient in terms of moderation, responsible consumption, equitable benefits and resilience to economic or natural shocks/disasters; and sustainable in terms of integrating economic, social and environmental aspects, with a longer term view.
The First Policy Consultation Forum of the Seoul Initiative on Green Growth (SINGG): ’Promoting Sustainable Infrastructure Development‘ was held on 6-8 September 2006 in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
The secretariat of SINGG and ESCAP, in collaboration with other partners, agreed to continue working in the area of sustainable infrastructure through the network of experts created during the above Seoul Forum.
It was agreed to consider the opportunities for further analytical and policy work:
Carry out in-depth studies and analysis of regional experience on eco-efficiency project development compilation of good practices, as well as organization of capacity-building programmes and development of pilot or demonstration projects;
Furthering the work on eco-efficiency indicators to consider indicators for sustainable infrastructure development (SID), while considering existing indicators such as water loss rate, solid waste generation rate, and energy use rate/intensity in transportation;
Disseminate information on the importance and good practices of eco-efficiency in SID among decision-makers, planners, academics and related stakeholders;
Develop conceptual methodologies to improve eco-efficient infrastructure, such as congestion cost estimation to include not only time delay and oil consumption, but also environmental costs;
Develop guidelines for achieving eco-efficient infrastructure development in the region using existing information as much as possible, considering potential policy tools (such as economic incentives, life-cycle cost saving and strategic environmental assessment) and strategies that area appropriate to different sectors, development stages, urban and rural conditions.
Among the conclusions, the Seoul Forum saw a holistic approach as necessary in infrastructure development, considering both consumption and production aspects, physical and non-physical aspects, different stages of infrastructure development, different levels of organizations and the role of different stakeholders. The development of SID policies and strategies should take into account the eco-efficiency concept that seeks to merge and combine infrastructure systems, such as transport and energy. This theme runs through the paper.
Finally, it should be recognized that knowledge within the field of sustainable and eco-efficient infrastructure is at an embryonic stage. The Seoul Forum, the EGM and this paper are steps along a longer path to increase knowledge and raise the level of understanding.
This paper is intended to form the background document for the Expert Group Meeting to be held in Bangkok 11-13 June 2007. It seeks to take the findings of the Seoul Forum a step further, facilitating discussion at the EGM and leading to the establishment of a UN Development Account Project on Eco-Efficient and Sustainable Infrastructure, to be implemented in 2008-9. While seeking to break some new ground and to stimulate discussion, the paper is not intended to be prescriptive – rather, to raise a series of possibilities that could (or could not) be explored further.
In keeping with purpose of the proposed DA project, the paper is also aimed at policy makers, decision-makers and planners.
The paper concentrates on energy, water, transport and housing infrastructure systems. It focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, although the DA project will also cover Latin America.
The paper is also pitched at the level of urban infrastructures, not only at a city level, but also connectivity of urban areas at an inter-urban level.
The emphasis of the paper is on concepts, principles, methodologies and approaches.
The paper also concentrates on the Asia area, with the burgeoning economies of India and China. However, consideration will also need to be given to countries of the Pacific either in the first or subsequent phases on the DA project. The Pacific, for example, has suffered from major natural disasters and issues of reconstructing critical infrastructure and its vulnerability are paramount.
2. What are the challenges?
What are the basic needs that infrastructure supports?
As the OECD (2007a: 14) has acknowledged, “infrastructures are at the very heart of economic and social development”. To this could be added environmental development, so infrastructure can be seen as underpinning integrated economic, social and environmentally sustainable development. Infrastructure also constitutes an important economic activity in its own right. Fore example, the importance of the car industry to China’s economy is considerable, and strategies to address increasing motorization must take this into account. Infrastructure also contributes to raising living standards and, especially in the context of developing countries, to alleviating poverty, providing access to clean water and improving health and education.
Thus, infrastructure is important to achieving the various Millennium Development Goals, especially (but not only) MDG 1, MDG 7 and MDG 8.
MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Includes:
Target 1: Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day;
Target 2: Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. Includes:
Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development;
Target 10: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation;
Target 11: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development. Includes:
Target 12: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction;
Target 13: Address the special needs of least developed countries;
Target 18: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
The basic needs that infrastructure supports are perhaps best represented by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Article 13 refers to the right to freedom of movement; Article 17: the right to own property; Article 23: the right to work; Article 25: the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care; and Article 26: the right to education. These social and economic (and cultural) development needs are supported by transport, energy and water services.
The ESCAP (2006: 176) Report on ‘State of the Environment in Asia and the Pacific 2005’ highlights the importance of Millennium Development Goal 7 to the achievement of other MDGs.
The importance of infrastructure systems to achieving these goals and targets still needs to be highlighted and demonstrated. As discussed later, there are related international targets in relation to tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions and, as some would argue, to reduce global and regional Ecological Footprints.
The OECD (2007a: 14) has also pointed out the “less desirable consequences” of infrastructures eg roads may mean more traffic, congestion, noise, dispersed development patterns and emissions. The OECD has succinctly highlighted the key dilemma and challenge:
The next decades are likely to see an accentuation of two facets of infrastructures. On the one hand, they will prove a vital tool in resolving some of the major challenges faced by societies – supporting economic growth, meeting basic needs, lifting millions of people out of poverty, facilitating mobility and interaction. On the other, environmental pressures in the form of changing climatic conditions, congestion and so on are likely to increase, turning the spotlight firmly on the inherent tensions between the imperative for further infrastructure development and the quest for sustainability.
2.2 The role played by infrastructure and its importance
Infrastructure is not an end in itself but is a key element for realizing sustained economic growth and sustainable development to meet the above MDGs and other goals.
However, work on the MDGs (and, indeed, other goals) has taken the role of infrastructure in achieving the goals and targets into consideration only to a limited extent. The work done in this regard has mainly focused on the financing aspects of infrastructure development, or the issue of access for disadvantaged groups, but has not explicitly addressed sustainability considerations (ESCAP, internal memo 2006).
The 2006 external evaluation of ESCAP suggested that it take up the issue of regional and subregional infrastructure development (Djumala et al. 2006: 18).
In this paper infrastructure includes transport, energy and water (refer IPWEA 2006) with addition of urban housing (but see ESCAP 2006b: 18). But infrastructure may be viewed more widely as the whole system. Is it water consumption, or is it the pipes? Is it roads, or is it the motorization rate? This leads to a definition of infrastructure:
Infrastructure is a system to facilitate the delivery of services rather than an end-product (see Howes and Robinson 2005).1
Not only is infrastructure very costly and has a long life, but it is also very intensive in resource use, including materials, energy, water and land. Much attention has been given to the eco-efficiency of products eg WBCSD, but if these principles can be applied to infrastructure the potential savings can be far greater and infrastructure can be delivered more cost-effectively.
Infrastructure development locks in consumption patterns for decades to come (ESCAP 2006b:18) eg urban roads and freeways in preference to mass transit systems imply heavy fossil fuel demand for personal modes of transport and continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions.
Buildings are estimated to contribute 40% of greenhouse emissions over their life, with buildings and infrastructure likely to be a far greater percentage. Hence, with the world’s fastest growing economies and highest numbers of people in India and China (4 billion combined), and with a substantial percentage of these being in cities, it is clear that the pattern of infrastructure development in Asia and the Pacific, as to be discussed in the EGM, is of critical importance for the planet.
2.3 The challenge of urbanization
Driven by buoyant economic development and continuous population growth, Asia is exerting exponential pressures on natural resources and the environment. This is an important reason to promote eco-efficient development, including infrastructure (ESCAP 2007).
A major challenge in Asian cities is to meet the demand for infrastructure and services – electricity, water supply, drainage, sanitation, solid waste management, roads and transport systems. According to Roberts and Kanaley (2007:19):
The urgency of this challenge is emphasized by the scale and short time-frame of projected city growth. Urbanization in Asia involves around 44 million people being added to the population of cities every year. The total requirement for infrastructure investments in Asia, 2006-2010, may well be around $250-300 billion per annum.
The aggregate number of people living in poverty in Asian cities is increasing, with the widening gap between the rich, the new middle class and the poor being of special concern. In the words of Roberts and Kanaley (2007:19),
Economic growth and urbanization have been, and will continue to be, central to reducing poverty in Asia, but a major challenge facing the rapidly urbanizing developing countries of Asia is to ensure that the economic benefits of urbanization are sufficiently widespread.
Urban poverty is often neglected in the global debate about sustainability – poverty commonly being thought of as a rural phenomenon. But, in reality,
the principal consequence of rapid urbanization in the developing world is the ‘urbanization of poverty’. It affects between 1 and 2 out of every 3 urban dwellers in developing countries. In these countries we are witnessing an explosion of slum populations that is driving the pace and nature of city growth (Taylor 2007: 22).
The rise in income in Asian cities (notwithstanding its inequitable distribution) has produced dramatic increases in per capita car ownership, per capita waste generation, per capital levels of water use, energy consumption, sewerage, and industrial waste. Rapid and uncontrolled urbanization has exerted tremendous pressure on the urban infra and require its expansion (IGES 2005a: 98). This in turn has exerted greater pressure on the environment.
Growing motorization, especially in urban areas, has also led to an immense problem of traffic congestion in Asia and especially China2. It is estimated that if China adopts the same consumption patterns as the US, this would mean producing another 850 million cars and more than doubling the world’s output of oil. China now has about 50 000 km of roads and a further 25 000 km will be added over the next 5 years, with traffic already gridlocked. In addition, another 300-400 million people are expected to move to the cities and suburbs over the next 20-30 years. At the same time, public transport use is declining in comparison to the automobile: 70% of Beijing’s population used public transit in the 1970s, while just 24% use it today. This gives an indication of the enormity of the challenge to achieve SID. According to New Scientist (2006), “planners now agree that to make cities more eco-friendly the top priority is to cut car use”.
Water shortage has also become a pressing problem facing China’s rapid urbanization, with about two thirds of its 661 cities facing this problem. Among these cities, about 100 are in serious trouble, lacking enough water to support people’s lives and industrial operations. In addition, among 600 cities at risk of floods, only 40% have flood defences that meet national standards (China Daily 2006).
As Tipple (2006: 388) has pointed out, “housing and its occupants are most likely to be vulnerable to the effects of natural and human-made hazards in the developing world because of the context in which urbanization takes place”. Millions of people live on steep and unstable slopes, flood plains, low-lying coastal land, land close to sources of pollution and other hazardous sites. Through the “urbanization of poverty”, urban vulnerability to hazards has increased and disasters are more likely to follow.
The large population and rapidly increasing levels of consumption in Asia and the Pacific make the region a significant contributor to the global Ecological Footprint. With 55% of world population, the Asia-Pacific region’s footprint occupies 40% of available world biocapacity (WWF 2005: 8). Notwithstanding the global significance of the overall Asian footprint, the average footprint of an Asian resident is still far smaller than the average footprint of people living in Europe or North America no doubt due to high levels of poverty. The growth in footprint is attributable largely to population growth. However, as wealth in the region increases, the footprint is likely to grow markedly.