EBRD Annual Meeting 2015: Investing in Green Infrastructure

By Lucia Sconosciuto

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EBRD Annual Meeting 2015: Investing in Green Infrastructure

Fostering Green but Affordable Infrastructure Development: Showcasing Regional Initiatives
Governments and public service providers are increasingly seeking opportunities to save energy and cut their carbon footprint while guaranteeing better quality utilities for their citizens.
That is why they are increasingly investing in ‘green infrastructure’ in water and solid waste management, street lighting or transport, to name only a few examples.
“Green infrastructure lies at the heart of sustainable growth, not only from an environmental point of view but from an economic prospective as well,” said Thomas Maier, EBRD Managing Director for Infrastructure, setting the scene for a lively discussion panel entitled Fostering Green but Affordable Infrastructure Development, at the EBRD’s 2015 Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi's Mayor Davit Narmania identified one of the most important conditions of urban development as "making the city a greener place to live in, improving air quality, creating a cleaner environment and increasing recreational space". This "Green Platform" approach has gained importance in recent years, not only in the Georgian capital but in Europe and around the world.
Turkey seems to agree, according to Yilmaz Ilgin, of the Turkish Ministry of Development. Strengthening the potential of a green economy through better infrastructure is also the focus in his country, which currently holds the presidency of the G20.
International Financial Institutions (IFIs) can play an important role by making available technical expertise for infrastructure projects, he explained.
But Oshani Perera, Public Procurement expert of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, pointed out that governments do not always ‘think big’ when it comes to infrastructure projects, which should be more demand-driven.
For the best investments using taxpayers’ funds, governments should specify desired outcomes and leave it to the experts, usually in the private sector, to come up with the right technological solution for an infrastructure project, she said.
The private sector, naturally, agrees. Adam Purwin, CEO of PKP Cargo S.A. Poland, the national provider of rail freight and second largest freight operator in Europe (recently partially privatised), praised the de-regulation in the European Union market that allows intermodal platforms to expand and save diesel by increasing cargo transport by rail which currently represents a mere 17 per cent of the total.
Wolfram Senger-Weiss, of Gebruder Weiss logistics company, stressed the continued potential of shipping and logistics services for 'green growth'.
"We are very lucky, because green logistics is very often linked to cheaper logistics," he said. Less fuel cost means cheaper transport, he went on. He pointed out that there is still a lot of unused capacity in container trade - often travelling empty - which can be used more efficiently.
There is no one size-fits-it-all for infrastructure projects, argued Samuel Fourneaux, of Degremont SA, water and wastewater service provider.
This is a general lesson that applies to all green solutions. And that is where IFIs such as the EBRD have a role to play: to provide finance, policy advice and technical know-how, ultimately paving the way for more sustainable economic growth, Thomas Maier concluded
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