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Financing Sustainable Infrastructure

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What is sustainable infrastructure? Infrastructure is the backbone to sustainable development, comprising of energy and water infrastructure, transport systems and building, as well as social and nature-based infrastructure.

None of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved without infrastructure, but financing it is a challenge which requires careful consideration due to the enormous impacts to the well-being of people and the planet.

Planning phases for sustainable infrastructure can be longer and more expensive than for traditional projects, since they require systemic thinking, concerted design for the environment, and expertise in project and infrastructure finance.  Using of greener and cleaner materials and technologies may involve higher performance risks, as these new solutions have yet to develop robust track records.  Design and construction phases are also periods of high risk, trial, error and experimentation; when expenditure is high, delays are common place and no stable revenues are flowing in. 

IISD defines sustainable infrastructure as assets that:

  • Lower carbon and environmental footprints
  • Steward natural ecosystems and conserve biodiversity
  • Optimize the use of nature-based infrastructure
  • Move beyond compliance on core labour and human rights standards
  • Trigger technological and industrial innovation across value chains
  • Spur investment in education, skill building and R&D
  • Increase long-term employment
  • Are financially viable
  • Crowd in domestic investors and businesses
  • Increase opportunities for foreign direct investment
  • Optimize value for money for taxpayers and investors across the asset life cycle.

IISD provides research and advisory services on infrastructure and project finance.  We help policy-makers and their many stakeholders appreciate the technical dynamics of investing in both large and small projects and help develop their skills in managing project and infrastructure finance. This includes

  • Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi)
  • Innovative financing strategies to blend public and private capital
  • Dedicated focus on credit enhancement instruments
  • Development of domestic bond markets
  • Strategies to crowd in domestic investors into financing infrastructure
  • Public–private partnerships (PPPs), stressing the importance of risk allocation and moreover, that PPPs can present significant stress on public balance sheets for many years to come. 

Since 2018, we have also been working on digital finance and tokenization, which promises to disrupt and democratize the financing of infrastructure in an unprecedented manner. Our preliminary thoughts are presented in the report Tokenization of infrastructure. This report examines how blockchain and other digital finance technologies can address the inherent barriers of the infrastructure asset class.

Ongoing flagship projects are:

We serve on the B20 Infrastructure Taskforce, UNECE Expert Group on PPP, the OECD Experts Groups on PPP, Green Finance and Long-Term Investment, and the Expert Network on Second Opinions (ENSO). We work closely with the Berne Union (a global association for the export credit and investment insurance industry), Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), New Development Bank (NDB), Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

  • Book
    Modelling for Sustainable Development: New decisions for a new age

    Modelling for Sustainable Development: New decisions for a new age

    This book provides a detailed overview of models used in designing projects and policies that integrate sustainable development considerations and objectives. 

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  • Discussion Paper
    Tokenization of Infrastructure: A blockchain-based solution to financing sustainable infrastructure

    Tokenization of Infrastructure: A blockchain-based solution to financing sustainable infrastructure

    This report presents how tokenization can address some of the fundamental challenges of financing sustainable infrastructure projects.

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  • Blog
    Why Financing Rural Infrastructure Is Crucial to Achieving Food Security

    Why Financing Rural Infrastructure Is Crucial to Achieving Food Security

    Financing infrastructure, including roads, storage and localized energy grids, will help provide food security for the millions of people living in hunger worldwide.

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  • Brochure
    Applying the Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) Tool to the 9.5 GW Offshore Wind Farm, North Sea, The Netherlands

    Applying the Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) Tool to the 9.5 GW Offshore Wind Farm, North Sea, The Netherlands

    Applied to the 9.5 GW offshore wind farm in the North Sea, the SAVi tool compares the financial attractiveness of the wind farm with other energy technologies under four different scenarios.

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  • Report
    Credit Enhancement for Sustainable Infrastructure

    Credit Enhancement for Sustainable Infrastructure

    The paper identifies the demand and supply-side barriers for upscaling credit enhancement solutions for sustainable infrastructure projects.

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  • Blog
    High-tech data needed to stop sewage overflows

    High-tech data needed to stop sewage overflows

    Financial sector technology could help as cities struggle with waste.

    Read More
  • Blog
    Infrastructure, Industrialization and Innovation:  Why SDG 9 matters and how we can achieve it

    Infrastructure, Industrialization and Innovation: Why SDG 9 matters and how we can achieve it

    With half the world now living in cities, and billions of dollars spent each year on growth and infrastructure, we need to finance and implement sustainable infrastructure practices that reduce our environmental footprint, employ clean technologies and are economically viable.

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  • Blog
    IISD Contributes to the Annual Meeting of the New Development Bank

    IISD Contributes to the Annual Meeting of the New Development Bank

    IISD applauds the New Development Bank for setting out a clear target whereby two thirds of its portfolio will advance sustainable infrastructure as well as their strategic focus on clean energy, irrigation and water resource management.

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  • Report
    Low-Carbon Innovation for Sustainable Infrastructure: The role of public procurement

    Low-Carbon Innovation for Sustainable Infrastructure: The role of public procurement

    This report discusses how to leverage the power of public procurement laws, policies and practices to drive low-carbon innovation in the construction and infrastructure sectors.

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  • Report
    Stormwater Markets: Concepts and applications

    Stormwater Markets: Concepts and applications

    This paper provides an overview of the technology and financing options available to address the stormwater problem in urban areas. The analysis focuses on policy instruments for incentivising private investments into green infrastructure, specifically through the creation of stormwater markets.

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