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FEATURE: Climate change takes centre stage in infrastructure debates

Over half of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result from the use and construction of infrastructure assets, with energy production, buildings, transportation and the manufacture of cement and steel topping the bill.  So, getting infrastructure development right is crucial to achieving low carbon growth patterns in future.

The infrastructure sector is also centralto efforts to build resilience. According to the World Bank’s latest figures, well over half of the adaptation investment required in the developing world fits into a broad definition of infrastructure.  This includes the huge task of adapting the built environment to the coming climatic changes, and a range of infrastructure assets purpose-built to protect populations, such as flood defences and water storage.

These themesare explored in a recent report by Lily Ryan-Collins, Karen Ellis and Alberto Lemma (Engineers Against Poverty and Overseas Development Institute): Climate Compatible Development in the Infrastructure Sector.

The report examines the challenges and opportunities at the nexus of climate change, infrastructure and development.  It includes an analysis of data on climate-related infrastructure funding flows.

The report finds that:

  • Developing countries face three core challenges in adapting to, and mitigating the effects of, climate change in the infrastructure sector: raising the necessary finance, developing and transferring technology, and building government capacity to formulate andimplement climate change policy.
  • But climate change has also created developmental opportunities in the infrastructure sector, including access to new sources of finance, the potential for green job creation, and profiting from synergies between climate change initiatives and developmental priorities.
  • Analysis of infrastructure funding flows from international donor climate finance initiatives and the Clean Development Mechanism suggests that donor climate-related infrastructure funding may be excessively skewed towards mitigation at the cost of adaptation, and that mitigation funding may be excessively skewed towards the energy sector at the cost of the buildings sector. This is despite the fact that the buildings sector offers the greatest potential for rapid, significant and cost-effective GHG emissions reductions of any infrastructure sector.

Read the full report: Climate Compatible Development in the Infrastructure Sector

Photo: Construction workers, Indonesia, courtesy World Bank

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