Future-proof infrastructure - a prerequisite for competitiveness and resource efficiency

By Hans-Peter Egler, 01.10.2015

Hans-Peter Egler is CEO of the Global Infrastructure Basel (GIB) foundation. He has many years of experience in international cooperation and in the field of sustainability. Prior to taking up his position at GIB, he was head of the Trade Promotion section at Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO. In this capacity he was responsible for investment promotion measures and export finance in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Hans-Peter Egler is an economist and business administrator.

Infrastructure like transport routes, hospitals, schools, waste-processing, drinking-water and electricity generation plants, ports and airports form the backbone of our economic and social development. They have a direct and indirect influence on economic prosperity, societal well-being and the environment. The OECD estimates the global investment requirement in the area of transport, telecommunications, electricity and water alone at USD 53 trillion or 2.5 percent of forecasted global GDP. This enormous demand highlights the importance of infrastructure and requires future-oriented solutions.

Switzerland must also continue to update and develop its infrastructure to avoid endangering its attractiveness as a business location and competitiveness. The increased infrastructure requirement is due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation, technical progress and the ageing of existing infrastructure.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), cities are responsible for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of energy consumption. For this reason, the implementation of  “green” economic objectives could have a particularly strong impact in the area of urban infrastructure. Hence the way we develop our urban areas is crucial to our ecological footprint – as shaped by our consumption of energy and natural resources. If we continue to develop our infrastructure at the existing level, it will lead to serious unavoidable environmental risks and, possibly, high repair costs.

How will Switzerland counteract this development? If both environmental factors and social elements are taken into account in projects for the construction and renovation of infrastructure, it can have a positive influence on the environment and society. The efficient use of energy and resources leads to reductions not only in resource consumption and emissions but also in operating costs In addition, “green” infrastructure also has a positive influence on the production of goods and services through their supply chain. Hence “green” economic growth is further promoted and more “green” jobs are created.

The consideration of environmental factors and their impacts also plays a crucial role in risk management: risks, for example recurring flood events due to climate change, must be taken into account in the planning of infrastructure at an early stage. In this way, such risks can be diffused before they generate damage and costs and even pose a threat to human life.

Hence, green infrastructure clearly makes economic sense, particularly in urban areas, and contributes to risk mitigation. At the same time, it has a positive influence on the environment and society. Provided that the ancillary conditions for a green economy are in place, these impacts can be intensified even more to benefit both us and the generations to come.

Editor's note: Individual contributions may reflect an author's personal perspective. Over time, the spectrum of political views will be reflected in the variety of the contributions published. Editorial principles  

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Last modification 15.10.2015

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