FAST-Infra: Promoting sustainable growth through common standards on sustainability
Much of the infrastructure built in the last century, which people need to thrive: energy, transportation, sanitation, hospitals, and schools, has been significantly carbon intensive. And the world needs much more infrastructure in the coming years as the population expands, urbanisation increases, and the ambitions of people to improve their livelihoods grow, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In the face of an intensifying climate crisis, unless we quickly develop ways to deliver a new generation of infrastructure that is sustainable, it will be impossible to meet our national and global decarbonisation goals in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement commitments.
Public budgets alone remain insufficient to close a sustainable infrastructure investment gap estimated to be in excess of $3 trillion a year over the next 10 years, particularly in developing countries where infrastructure deficits are particularly staggering.
And while investors see significant upside opportunity presented by sustainable and low-carbon investments, the supply of bankable infrastructure projects that are genuinely sustainable remains inadequate and insufficient to achieve the scale necessary to truly the move the needle on this issue.
FAST-Infra: —the ‘Finance to Accelerate the Sustainable Transition-Infrastructure initiative
Recognising the need to crowd-in more private investment into sustainable infrastructure, the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) has collaborated with the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), HSBC, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on a joint venture called FAST-Infra, the ‘Finance toAccelerate the SustainableTransition-Infrastructure initiative. Developed in early 2020 under the auspices of French President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Lab, FAST-Infra is a public-private initiative bringing more than 50 organisations together to push for collective action to mobilize private finance and de-risk investments in sustainable infrastructure in developing countries.
As part of this initiative, GIF co-chairs a working group with Macquarie Green Investment Group on a key component of FAST-Infra, the creation of a consistent, globally applicable labeling system for sustainable infrastructure assets. The Sustainable Infrastructure Label (SI Label) is meant to add value across the infrastructure lifecycle, serving as a tool to inform upstream project planning, prioritisation, and design.
It will also send clear market signals further downstream post-construction to help investors align their decisions with environmental, social, resiliency, and governance needs. The label certification aims to increase financing potential and motivate governments to design more projects with sustainability criteria at their core, encouraging developers to maintain high environmental, social, and resiliency standards at all stages of the infrastructure lifecycle.
“A key motivation behind the SI Label is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather build on existing standards, frameworks, and taxonomies to create a comprehensive framework and set of sustainability criteria that takes into account best practices and evolves with changes in the market.”
While this might seem like a simple curation exercise, the final product will be the first-of-its-kind framework that provides holistic, actionable guidance at the asset level of key sustainable considerations for infrastructure.
Next steps in the FAST-Infra journey
After many months of refinement and consultation among FAST-Infra members, the SI Label has reached an exciting milestone, the creation of the overall framework and underlying set of sustainability criteria that will guide the SI Label process. Each criterion is further described by reference to existing standards and associated with a series of key performance indicators and methodologies.
While getting to this point has been the product of contributions from the FAST-Infra working group, we know that the more voices we have, the more we can work together to solve sustainable infrastructure finance challenges and make this initiative a success. Therefore, we’ve opened the SI Label Framework and Criteria for public consultation through August 31, 2021.
The inputs from this consultation will help us further refine the SI Label Framework and build momentum ahead of COP26 this November. In parallel, we have issued a call for Expressions of Interest also through August 31, 2021, to provide support for the SI Label’s Secretariat and Data Reporting Function, key components that will allow for the longevity of this label for COP26 and beyond.
Creating a sustainable future cannot be done alone, it will require the joint action of stakeholders across the public and private sectors. Initiatives like FAST-Infra demonstrate the power of partnerships and offer a viable pathway to close the infrastructure investment gap and promote sustainable, inclusive growth.
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