The Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) flagship publication “Development in the Americas” this year focuses on ways to improve the region’s infrastructure development to build resilience to climate change and its impacts. The report, “From Structures to Services: A New Vision for Infrastructure”, outlines a path to improve infrastructure services and manage fundamental challenges to achieve higher sustainability, affordability and quality in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Acclimatise co-authored chapter 8 of the report “Back to Nature: Alternatives to Concrete and Steel” which looks at the effectiveness of natural and combined natural-grey infrastructure compared to traditional approaches. The chapter explores six types of Natural Infrastructure (NI); coral reefs, mangroves, forests, constructed wetlands, green roofs and green spaces, across four geophysical settings; marine, coastal, terrestrial, and urban. The chapter discusses the efficacy of NI, cost-effectiveness, and also barriers and enablers to implementation.
The wider report covers tangible actions that can be taken to improve infrastructure services, and importantly the change in mindset that is required to implement novel solutions to complex challenges. It’s not just the ‘hardware’ that needs fixing (e.g. roads, power plants, water treatment plants) but also the software (e.g. regulations, governance) that needs updating.
The report argues that NI is one element of a new infrastructure paradigm that can help meet infrastructure requirements in a sustainable, affordable and high-quality manner. It involves managing natural (such as mangroves, forests) ecosystems and integrating natural and quasi-natural (e.g green roofs, bioswales) elements into the built environment, to deliver infrastructure services
As NI is new, it doesn’t have the long legacy in meeting infrastructure services in the same way that concrete and steel does, and the data, information and know-how that underpin it. Therefore, leveraging NI will require investments related to gathering and analyzing data to determine location-specific efficacy, planning, and securing financing. Yet the region can glean lessons learnt from other parts of the world where NI has become integrated into planning and development (e.g. the Netherlands) to leverage LAC’s endowment of natural capital to deliver infrastructure services.
Learn more about the potential of NI to achieve infrastructure services in the 2020 DIA.
Blackman, A., R.
Guerrero, R. Hamaker-Taylor, A. Rycerz, M. Schling, L. Villalobos. 2020.
“Back to Nature: Alternatives to Concrete and Steel.” Chapter 8 in E. Cavallo,
A. Powell and T. Serebrisky (eds.). From Structures to Services: The Path to
Better Infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington, DC:
InterAmerican Development Bank: 175-191.