New playbook on nature-positive infrastructure highlighted at New York Climate Week

20 Sep 2023

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A new Playbook published by FIDIC and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to encourage ‘nature-positive’ infrastructure development has been profiled at a special launch event during Climate Week NYC this week.

Climate Week NYC is the largest annual climate event of its kind, bringing together some 400 events and activities across the City of New York. The new Playbook for Nature-Positive Infrastructure Development took centre stage at a webinar on 19 September 2023, which featured speakers from FIDIC, WWF, AECOM and the UN Enviroment Programme (UNEP).

FIDIC and WWF have joined forces to develop a first iteration of a playbook for ‘nature-positive’ infrastructure development to help drive change in the sector. Globally, there has been growing interest in the potential of nature-based solutions to complement, or in some cases, even replace traditional or ‘grey’ infrastructure. The new playbook provides an insight into the global state of play and acts as a tool for supporting the implementation of nature-based solutions.

Speaking at the webinar, Basma Eissa, FIDIC policy analyst, highlighted that despite the enthusiasm in the infrastructure sector for nature-based solutions, their take up wasn’t as widespread as they should be. “One of the main findings from our research for the playbook is that, despite the substantial interest in nature-based solutions expressed by infrastructure practitioners over the past decade, the actual uptake of projects is not as high as one might think,” she said.

“Many infrastructure practitioners remain concerned primarily with reducing or mitigating environmental impact, rather than systematically integrating ecosystem restoration into their project design. To be truly nature-positive, infrastructure development must go beyond merely reducing or mitigating impact, and toward integrating ecosystem viability, biodiversity and climate goals into their design. A mechanism to do this is to deploy natural assets and their inherent functions to achieve this.

“This shift will not be easy, or quick – as the hundreds of examples referenced in the playbook demonstrate – and it will require knowledge sharing, exchange of best practice, and peer-to-peer learning, which are the chief objectives of this playbook,” Eissa said.

Evan Freund, senior director for sustainable infrastructure and finance at WWF, welcomed their organisation’s partnership with FIDIC and highlighted the benefits of the industry working with the environmental sector. “We have more in common than you might think and it is important that organisations like ours work together to promote biodiversity and we look forward to using the playbook to engaging our respective global members on these crucial issues,” said Freund.

 

Jo Hughes, senior ESG adviser for nature at AECOM, spoke about their work as technical partner on the playbook and highlighted why a nature positive approach was such an important issue to organisations like AECOM and indeed the wider infrastructure industry. “Faced with a dual threat of climate change and global biodiversity loss, infrastructure developers, designers and providers are under growing pressure to move from ‘no net loss’ to ‘nature-positive’ infrastructure development,” she explained.

“In Europe and elsewhere, new policies and regulations that require disclosures on climate and biodiversity impacts are expected to drive a more robust approach to protecting and enhancing natural ecosystems during infrastructure development,” said Hughes.

“The purpose of this Playbook is to draw on a number of examples of projects that relied on nature-based solutions, as well as examples of projects that incorporated green and green-grey infrastructure solutions, to provide a simple guide for infrastructure practitioners to identify and select potential solutions for their projects, in order to drive the progress towards nature-positive infrastructure development,” she said.

Also speaking at the webinar, Rowan Palmer, consultant in the economic research unit at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighted some of the important work that they are doing as the leading global authority on the environment, including a soon-to-be-published piece of work which will complement the content of the FIDIC-WWF playbook.

Welcoming the publication of the playbook, Palmer said that it was good to see organisations like FIDIC and the WWF working in partnership and bringing the industry and business into the discussions around climate change and biodiversity. “The work we are doing at UNEP complements and builds on the Playbook for Nature-Positive Infrastructure Development and we recognise that the private sector is critical to creating innovative and technological solutions, as well as providing resources to meet our global environmental challenges,” he said.

Palmer also highlighted that the UNEP recognises that the actions of governments and civil society alone are not enough for tackling the world’s most pressing environmental challenges and achieving the UN sustainable development goals. Business is an important partner to find the solutions to global challenges and bring positive and sustainable action, he said.

Summing up the webinar, FIDIC CEO Dr Nelson Ogunshakin said that the playbook was intended to be much more than just a stand-alone publication or a static guide. “It also represents the exciting starting point of a much more ambitious goal of creating a ‘living playbook’ that will continue to expand global recognition of nature-positive infrastructure approaches for years to come as we progress towards new solutions and construction techniques that are truly nature-positive,” he said.

Ogunshakin said that FIDIC also believes that the playbook project demonstrates how a wide variety of stakeholders can work together to promote and show the difference that engineers and the wider infrastructure workforce can truly make in “ensuring that infrastructure becomes part of the solution to the global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss”.

Click here to read the new FIDIC-WWF Playbook for Nature-Positive Infrastructure Development.

Click on the video below to view the webinar recording. 

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