ICSI: Protecting biodiversity is critical to building resilience on a local and global scale

Founded in 2019 to accelerate the planning, design, construction and operation of safe sustainable and resilient infrastructure, International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) R2R participants by 2030 will have influenced and/or delivered 3,780 projects in 210 cities to improve the climate resilience of 567m people. Here, as COP15 gets underway, the organisation discusses the importance of biodiversity protection in resilience building. By ICSI | December 9, 2022

Protecting biodiversity is critical to building resilience on a local and global scale. We know that biodiversity is a key factor in upholding and protecting planetary boundaries.

Infrastructure work is often positioned to be at odds with nature and destructive to biodiversity – but there are approaches, such as Nature-based solutions (NbS) and green-grey infrastructure, that can work in harmony with nature to protect and restore biodiversity, and strengthen disaster and climate resilience.

We need to address the integration of infrastructure and nature, exploring how to work with nature to build systemic resilience and identify nature-positive solutions for mitigation and adaptation. Integrating nature within existing and new infrastructure undoubtedly makes a compelling case because it delivers multiple benefits, but a robust and viable economic case will be key to implement at pace and at scale.

Conservation International is part of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI) Race to Resilience and they are doing good work with the Green-Gray Community of Practice initiative. They have recently published a useful resource that looks at financing approaches for NbS, and is a call to action for players designing, implementing, and investing in innovative infrastructure solutions to accelerate sustainable development, while cost-effectively optimizing service delivery. This case study by Conservation International, on a green-gray solution to protect the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta in Colombia, also makes an important contribution to the ICSI Race to Resilience.

Making a strong case for NbS requires a consideration of their whole lifecycle, from concept planning to design and implementation, all the way through to operations and maintenance. This online resource explores from the Infrastructure Pathways framework explains how take a lifecycle approach to NbS.

NbS for infrastructure struggle to achieve scale and would require that new policies, capacity development and financing be in place. Going from gray to green requires a deeper understanding and better articulation of the multiple benefits of integrating nature in infrastructure planning, development and management. What are the avoided losses generated by enhancing the resilience of infrastructure, what are the services it generated for communities? How can NbS affect the cashflow of asset operators? These costs and benefits need to be measured through data and evidence-based approaches that capture not only economic, but also social, environmental and human health benefits.

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