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Canada and UK leading the world on infrastructure projects for the common good

Infrastructure investments in Canada and the United Kingdom are most likely to deliver positive societal, economic, or environmental benefits, research by Economist Impact has revealed.

The Infrastructure for Good barometer, developed by Economist Impact and supported by Deloitte and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability benchmarks the capacity of 30 countries to sustainably deliver efficient and quality infrastructure that addresses critical economic, social and environmental needs.

The UK ranked second place, scoring highly across all five pillars, employing several strategies to deliver inclusive, sustainable infrastructure:

• Co-ordination: Cross-cutting bodies including the UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the National Infrastructure Commission align development and evaluation efforts to improve infrastructure implementation at a systemic level.
• Pursuing social outcomes: The UK delivers regular needs assessments and has strong community engagement standards, though inclusive strategies such as “Levelling Up”.
• Economic benefits: The UK ensures infrastructure benefits local industry (e.g., a target for 33% of public procurement to benefit SMEs) and implements strategies to promote upskilling among infrastructure workers, as outlined in its National Infrastructure Plan.
• Environmental performance: The UK is one of few countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions and net zero targets, supported by policy. It has systemic measures in place to protect the environment and plan for infrastructure resilience.

With Canada, a spotlight place placed on the Tu Deh-Kah Geothermal infrastructure project, which will repurpose the former Clarke Lake gas field into one of Canada’s first commercially viable geothermal electricity production facilities.

• When completed, the project, which will cost about US$100m, is expected to create 7-15 MW net geothermal power and thermal heat, enough to power 14,000 homes with clean renewable energy.
• Access to the new renewable energy source will substantially reduce the local population’s reliance on fossil fuels, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 25,000 tonnes annually in north-east British Columbia—equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road.
• The project has had substantial community involvement, with the change in its name from Clarke Lake Geothermal to Tu Deh-Kah Geothermal reflecting the project’s 100% ownership by the indigenous Cree and Dene people. The project has implemented several outreach mechanisms to ensure the effective involvement of local communities.
• The project is also intended to create important employment opportunities in the area. Its well field development phase is expected to create 10,000 work days, 40% of which are for positions that require little to no direct experience.

Jerome Lynch, Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, said: “Addressing the world’s enormous infrastructure finance gaps in the face of climate change and social inequity demands more than technical solutions,”

“It is essential that engineers, governments, and financiers take a holistic approach to infrastructure development to maximize prosperity and resilience throughout the world.

“Duke is excited to partner with Economist Impact and Deloitte on Infrastructure for Good to activate this potential at the nexus of infrastructure technology, governance, finance, and social and environmental impacts.”

Nigeria and Indonesia received the lowest scores among the 30 countries.