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Featured Insight

A Playbook for Nature-Positive Infrastructure Development: showcasing solutions

Discover our newly published playbook, in partnership with WWF and FIDIC (the international federation of consulting engineers).

Milica Apostolovic
Emily Le Cornu-Hetherington

AECOM is delighted to have developed the ‘Playbook for Nature-positive Infrastructure Development’ for FIDIC (the international federation of consulting engineers) and WWF.

It is designed to support the transformation of infrastructure towards a nature-positive approach by showcasing solutions across a range of sectors and landscapes and was launched at the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference on September 12, 2023.

Mobilizing to conserve and restore nature

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, agreed at the end of COP15 in December 2022, has mobilized both governments and businesses behind the imperative to conserve and restore natural ecosystems across the world.

The infrastructure sector needs to play its part in this mission and putting nature at the heart of the design of infrastructure – through an approach often called ‘nature-based solutions’ – offers great opportunities.

Real projects to drive real change

To help drive change in the sector, AECOM has prepared a Playbook for ‘nature-positive’ infrastructure development. The Playbook is designed to provide inspiration and guidance for infrastructure practitioners to identify and select potential solutions for their projects. Rather than taking a theoretical approach, it is built around the analysis of nearly 200 existing projects implemented around the world and allows readers to consider solutions by sectors, by benefits or by types of nature-positive infrastructure solutions. It also includes case studies from around the world of some exciting and successful projects that have already been implemented.

Moving towards ‘nature-positive’

In preparing the Playbook we discovered that although nature-based solutions and nature-positive infrastructure may be high on the agenda, there are actually not many delivered projects that could really be described as ‘nature-positive’.

The focus of many infrastructure projects remains on reducing the environmental impact of the scheme and on making it more sustainable through the addition of green elements, rather than exploring the potential of putting nature and natural ecosystems at the heart of the design. Building with nature, as opposed to around it, is the key tenet of nature-positive infrastructure.

Advantages of nature-positive infrastructure solutions

One of the principal advantages of nature-based solutions is that, if implemented properly, they bring a much wider range of benefits than traditional (‘grey’) infrastructure alone, exploiting a myriad of so-called ecosystem services provided by healthy natural ecosystems, which may include:

  • slowing down water flows during flood conditions
  • improving water quality
  • capturing and storing carbon (helping to mitigate climate change)
  • improving air quality
  • providing open space for local communities to enjoy
  • as well as increasing biodiversity

Expanding our understanding of the full range of benefits of such a nature-positive approach, and sharing more examples that quantify these benefits and demonstrate unequivocally, will hopefully drive wider uptake of nature-based solutions.

In addition, although there are many different types of nature-positive infrastructure solutions, there is a strong bias towards a few well-established approaches, such as reforestation, restoration of wetlands, and sustainable urban drainage systems. As a result, rather than seeing creativity and innovation driving an expanding portfolio of solutions, the options available to infrastructure designers and developers continue to appear limited.

How can the Playbook for Nature-positive Infrastructure Development help you?

The Playbook provides readers with an insight into the current state of play regarding nature-positive infrastructure development. We hope it stimulates a greater understanding of the potential of this approach across a range of sectors and landscapes, whilst also encouraging infrastructure practitioners to develop new solutions to overcome challenges faced by the sector.

Importantly, it is also designed to be a living document, which will be updated and enhanced as the true potential of nature-based solutions for infrastructure sectors is explored, and as we collect and integrate more projects, making the playbook increasingly useful over time.

Further to the FIDIC conference, the playbook will be presented and discussed at Climate Week NYC virtually on September 19, and in Dubai at COP28, offering everyone an opportunity to learn more about its objectives, its findings, and its potential impact.

We invite everyone working in the infrastructure sector to take a look at the Playbook.

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