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December 7, 2023

AIIB: viewing nature as integral to infrastructure could save biodiversity

Urban construction in Hong Kong. With Asia expanding rapidly, it is essential that ‘grey’ infrastructure should be designed better to take account of nature says the report (Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
Urban construction in Hong Kong. With Asia expanding rapidly, it is essential that ‘grey’ infrastructure should be designed better to take account of nature says the report (Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

Only by treating nature as an essential part of infrastructure will there be sufficient investment to preserve the world’s ecosystems, says an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank report

Nature is an inseparable part of our infrastructure and the degradation of nature and biodiversity over the past decades poses an existential risk as much as climate change, says a new study from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

An estimated $58tn, or 55 per cent of global GDP, is moderately or highly dependent on nature, according to consultants PwC. Viewing nature as infrastructure could therefore be a “transformative concept”, says the development bank. “Our ambition must be to turn the idea of nature as infrastructure from an abstract concept into an impactful asset class that commands increasing levels of investment and regulatory attention,” says AIIB president Jin Liqun in the foreword to the report.

The AIIB says that investment into nature also help to preserve its role as a carbon sink for the world, and suggests more should be done to measure the value and impact of nature at both macro and micro levels, and to integrate nature into decision making. 

The report points out, for example, that due to ongoing development and a population rise across Asia, grey infrastructure – such as wastewater systems – is growing. “It is necessary to design grey better, such as co-locating infrastructure on brown sites providing auxiliary infrastructure (eg, wildlife highway crossings, green urban spaces, restoring nature as offsets, etc) to mitigate the impact of grey infrastructure,” the authors add.

Interest in nature finance is growing, and it was a key topic during this month’s COP28 negotiations in the UAE. On December 4, eight multilateral and development finance institutions, including the Asian Development Bank, another development bank focused on the region, signed a non-binding joint declaration that includes the creation of a taskforce on sustainability-linked sovereign financing for nature and climate.

Biodiversity credits have also been discussed as a means of increasing finance for nature, and the AIIB supports the development of the growing market.

“We must go beyond ‘do no harm’ and even beyond ‘nature-positive’ investment and look at how we can draw on the full potential of nature. This means unlocking fresh financing from our balance sheets, deploying new lending instruments and using our convening power to better mobilise private finance,” says AIIB chief economist Erik Berglof.

The AIIB report is available to read here.

A service from the Financial Times