Construction worker, lifting a block in a construction site.

Five keys to adapting climate infrastructure

Climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges, and infrastructure is vital for mitigating the climate emergency.

Between 2000 and 2019, there was a 74.5% increase in natural disasters compared to the previous 20 years. During this time, more than 4 billion people worldwide were affected by natural disasters, approximately 1.23 million people lost their lives, and economic losses are estimated at USD 2.97 trillion.

There is a disproportionate impact of climate change on developing countries. Climate change poses a risk to existing infrastructure worldwide, but infrastructure can also be used to mitigate the impact of climate change on buildings, roads and transport routes whilst also supporting communities, saving lives, and growing economies.

Under this perspective, we believe it is essential to mobilize climate infrastructure:

  1. Reduce mitigation damage and protection of citizens lives

The effects of natural disasters have an impact on infrastructure and, therefore, on in the people living in and around infrastructure. Preventing the risks that could cause loss of life, and regression in the living standards of communities is the first reason why is critical to mobilize climate finance infrastructure.

The Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) report Sustainable Infrastructure and Climate Change: The Importance of Planning for the Future underlines that in regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, intense hurricane seasons and prolonged droughts are because of climate change.

The report states “environmentally sustainable infrastructure involves planning, designing and locating infrastructure projects in such a way that they increase their resilience to the effects of climate change.”

It is imperative to implement preventive actions such as the choice of materials and construction methods to increase the resilience of infrastructure.

“These actions would generate broad economic benefits, especially because about 30% of all homes built in the Caribbean are made of wood, and 77% of homes in this subregion have metal sheet roofs. These materials are weak and not very resilient to the force of a hurricane” affirm the report.

CoST’s Communications Manager, Lauren Pemberton-Nelson, also wrote about how poor infrastructure can increase the death toll after natural disasters.

  1. Opening-up climate finance infrastructure to public scrutiny

Our experience has demonstrated the need to support governments to prevent corruption, especially when planning huge investments in climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure.

The 2020 UN Independent Expert Report on Climate Finance highlighted the importance of transparency and data disclosure to help disaggregate and track climate finance from broader development finance.

In 2022, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Global Occupational Survey reflected that corruption was common in all regions of the world; however, opening-up climate finance to public scrutiny could reduce the risks of more money being lost due to mismanagement and corruption.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), through the Independent Integrity Unit, which is responsible for investigating misconduct, fraud, corruption and other prohibited practices in GCF-funded activities, function as mechanisms for accountability, promoting transparency and supporting emerging economies to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.

Last year, CoST ran a webinar on opening climate finance up to public scrutiny

  1. Ensuring basic services for all

In 2017, less than half of the world’s population had access to basic health services and 2.2 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water; in 2018, 24% of the world’s population lived in urban slums and 789 million people lacked electricity.

According to World Bank data, in the coming decades “climate change could drive more than 100 million people back into poverty by 2030, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”

In the face of the bleak outlook, governments have adopted commitments to support sustainable, low-carbon development that is resilient to the harmful effects of climate change, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Cost Executive Director Petter Matthews spoke more about this at the  United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) event which focused on Transparent procurement systems: good for the public, the private sector and the SDGs.

  1. Climate-responsible infrastructure

According to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), infrastructure plays a key role in the implementation of climate action and sustainable development.

The report Infrastructure for Climate Action notes that “infrastructure accounts for 79% of all greenhouse gas emissions and 88% of all adaptation costs”.

The buildings sector alone generates approximately 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Climate Watch). The steady increase in emissions from buildings is associated with the use of fossil fuels and high-carbon electricity for heating and cooking.

CoST and Eurodad’s joint session at the C20 Global Summit discussed this, focusing on the need for more quality, sustainable infrastructure.

  1. Nature-based solutions

If we want infrastructure to be resilient to climate conditions, infrastructure planning is essential, based on strategies and practices for adaptation to the new climate reality.

At CoST, we promote spaces for reflection and actions aimed at addressing these effects through efficient, transparent, and sustainable infrastructure alternatives.

Our members have disclosed information on more than 79 thousand infrastructure projects under standards that include detailed information on the environmental risks of the projects and open data from different institutions that include clarity and understanding of regulations and environmental risks, decision making and processes to reduce negative impacts on the environment, which could contribute to address the challenge we face.

We are working to  strengthen the OC4IDS to cover or connect data on climate finance, and other aspects of sustainable infrastructure including environmental impacts; beneficial ownership; health and safety; employment;  social inclusion and more. Our work is focused on identifying key data sets that can be incorporated into the IDS and OC4IDS which will reflect the shift in public procurement and climate related investments.

CoST member Honduras previously did work on nature-based solutions, through the development of an online platform. InfraS, helped stakeholders understand the environmental risks from infrastructure development.

InfraS displays an accessible map built from open data conveying environmental licensing; discrepancies in planning regulations; the location of projects in environmentally sensitive and areas and in priority areas for risk and disaster management of public infrastructure projects.