A new global study carried out in 28 countries by Ipsos MORI, in collaboration with the Global Infrastructure Investor Association, finds that the public places greater priority on addressing impacts on the environment over the economy when making decisions about how to improve infrastructure in their country.
In the lead-up to COP26, an average of 51% of citizens across the 28 countries felt that it is right to prioritise the impact on the environment, nearly double the 26% who put greater weight on economic impacts.
Furthermore, the environment was also ranked as the most important factor among seven criteria when planning for the future; an average of 26% of people ranked this first, slightly ahead of the quality of infrastructure, chosen by 23%. Ownership and disruption were the least likely to be chosen as the top priority, selected by just 9% and 7% respectively, with ownership most commonly chosen as the lowest ranked factor (ranked as seventh out of seven by 24%).
Lawrence Slade, CEO Global Infrastructure Investor Association, said:
“As world leaders come together in Glasgow to consider next steps in the battle to address climate change, this survey should embolden decision makers to put the environment at the heart of their infrastructure investment plans. Global citizens are far from satisfied with their infrastructure today and want to see improvements, with many placing climate-related infrastructure such as water supply, renewable energy and flood defences at the top of their list.”
The Global Infrastructure Index survey, which has been running annually since 2016, shows wide variations in satisfaction with infrastructure. For example:
- 77% are satisfied with infrastructure in China while only 18% are positive in Italy, compared with the global country average of 39%.
- Across the G8 nations 37% are satisfied, higher than the 35% in Great Britain and 27% in the U.S.
- In Europe, infrastructure in the Netherlands (74%), France (53%) and Germany (51%) is rated much more positively than in Spain (25%), Hungary (20%) and Italy (18%) at the other end of the scale.
Globally in 2021, people in South Africa (79%) and Brazil (75%) are most likely to agree that their country is “not doing enough to meet our infrastructure needs” but this is a majority view in all but five of the 28 countries. Agreement is weakest in South Korea (28%) and Japan (29%). Great Britain (64%) and the U.S. (61%) rank higher than the G8 average of 55%.
On average, three-quarters, 75%, across the 28 countries agreed that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy. South Africa leads – 90% agree – while the lowest level of agreement was in Japan with 51%.
Water supply and sewerage were identified as priorities for investment with 42% selecting it from a list of 13 possibilities, followed by solar energy infrastructure (39%) and flood defences (36%). Airports were seen as a priority for investment by much smaller proportions of people with just 11% selecting this. The same proportion chose nuclear infrastructure to generate energy (it was excluded as an option in the survey in nine countries).
In Great Britain, four of the top five priorities are climate-related; flood defences (selected by 44%), solar energy (38%), wind energy (38%), and EV charging (37%) head the list alongside rail infrastructure (37%). In the U.S., the top five priorities are water supply and sewerage (48%), the local road network (43%), motorway/major road network (42%), solar (37%) and wind energy (31%).
Globally, more people continue to prioritize improvements to social infrastructure (42%) such as schools, hospital buildings and housing in preference to economic infrastructure (35%) such as road, rail and air networks, utilities such as energy and water, and broadband and other communications. However, the gap has narrowed since last year – when the pandemic had increased attention to hospitals and schools – from 16 percentage points then (48% versus 32%), to 7 points this year.
There continues to be a preference for maintaining and repairing existing infrastructure (chosen by 55%) as a priority rather than spending on new infrastructure projects (20%), an identical pattern to that found in 2019.
In both the U.S. and Britain, 61% support the role of the private sector in investing in infrastructure with only 6% against this in the U.S. and 9% in Britain; they welcome the prospect of private investment if it means their country gets the infrastructure they need.
Slade continued: “Our survey shows that people are much less concerned about whether infrastructure improvements come from private or public sources and are much more focused on the quality and environmental considerations. At a time when many countries are looking to boost their economies and recover from the effects of the pandemic, governments should be focused on how to unlock private sector expertise to help deliver their future infrastructure needs.”
Spotlight on the U.S.
- In the States, 27% are satisfied with their country’s infrastructure, compared to 37% who are dissatisfied. The Latin America region is the only one among six where dissatisfaction is higher.
- 70% agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy, yet 61% believe that ‘not enough is being done’ to meet their country’s infrastructure needs.
- Americans are overwhelmingly supportive (61%) of private investment in infrastructure if it means the country gets what’s needed with only 6% disagreeing.
- Unlike most other countries, Americans would give higher priority to economic infrastructure (47%) over social infrastructure (27%). This compares to the global country average of 35% and 42% respectively.
- In terms of specific infrastructure sectors, Americans would prioritize investment in water supply and sewerage (48%), the local road network (43%), major road networks (42%), solar (37%) and wind energy (31%).
Spotlight on Great Britain
- In Britain, 35% are satisfied with their country’s infrastructure, compared to 26% who are dissatisfied.
- 79% agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy, yet 64% believe that ‘not enough is being done’ to meet infrastructure needs.
- Britons are overwhelmingly supportive (61%) of private investment in infrastructure if it means the country gets what’s needed with only 9% disagreeing.
- In terms of specific infrastructure sectors, four of the top five priorities for investment are climate-related with flood defences (44%), solar energy (38%), wind energy (38%), and EV charging (37%) heading the list along with rail infrastructure (37%).
- When making decisions about how to invest in infrastructure, 51% of Britons would give higher priority to considering the environmental impacts compared to 21% who would prioritize economic impacts.