The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in investment in railways, roads, energy projects, and ports in the developing world, aiming to address a significant “infrastructure gap.” Much attention has focused on China’s Belt and Road Initiative as the largest and most visible investor in the developing world, but many international finance organizations and other countries – especially Japan and Korea – have also been making substantial infrastructure investments. Planned infrastructure expansion is expected to span multiple continents and ocean basins and will potentially interact with a wide variety of sensitive terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems. While infrastructure is fundamental to economic development, historically large-scale infrastructure projects have had unintended negative impacts on the environment and local communities.
Decisions on infrastructure investments are moving forward rapidly. While the commitment to creating sustainable infrastructure is growing, there is a disconnect between intentions and actions. Decision makers are not using all the data available to help in their decision-making process; they often do not even know that data are available to help inform their decisions. They are also not incorporating sustainability early enough in the decision process.
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