Can infrastructure mitigate climate change or at least reduce its negative impact on people’s lives? “Climate-resilient” infrastructure can reduce pollution, create a better quality of life in urban centers, and manage water resources more efficiently. These infrastructures improve the mobility of megacities by reducing traffic and pollution; they produce clean energy, such as hydroelectric power; and they enable efficient management of waste and drinking water.
They are the key to saving the planet, at least according to the study “The New Climate Economy.” It was by the “Global Commission on the Economy and Climate,” an organization created by the governments of seven states (Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom) to map out the economic transition necessary to curb global warming and the resulting climate consequences.
From now to 2030, the study forecasts an estimated $90 trillion in infrastructure expenditure spending is needed, higher than the current value of the world’s existing infrastructure. This spending must focus mainly on sustainable infrastructures.
Climate-resilient infrastructure for the development of smart cities
Urban planning will be a central requirement to prevent megacities from becoming choked by pollution and congestion, and this planning must be based on the most innovative models of sustainable mobility, the study says. According to “The New Climate Economy” report, investing in smart cities through sustainable mobility systems would ensure economic savings of $17 trillion by 2050, not to mention the improvement in quality of life and reduction in pollution.
Efficient water management
The water crisis is deeply linked to climate change and today affects billions of people. According to the UN, 2.1 billion people in the world have no drinking water at home and 4.5 billion people live in inadequate sanitary conditions. As an economic effect, the scarcity of water deriving from climate change will result in a 20% decline in GDP by 2050, in regions including the Middle East, the Shael in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Africa, and East Asia.
That’s why climate-resilient infrastructure become even more strategic, when they involve efficient and modern management of water resources. Wastewater management systems, aqueducts, sea water desalination plants: all these infrastructures are capable of containing the harmful effects of climate change.
Developing infrastructures that produce clean energy will be one of the keys to preventing air pollution from pushing the average temperatures of the globe even higher in the coming years, the study says.
Migration from a coal-based economy to a sustainable system based on clean energy will be essential to reduce pollution, but also to create new jobs. According to “The New Climate Economy,” migration to clean energy would create 65 million jobs worldwide by 2030. Investing in the construction of hydroelectric plants, which exploit the strength and capacity of water, but also in more traditional “green” energies such as solar and wind, is the most important way to fight climate change.
The commitment of international financial institutions
International financial institutions are committed to green infrastructure, in particular banks that support the economies of developing countries. The Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDBG) has calculated that a transition to an economy supported by innovative infrastructures can create global growth of $26 trillion over the next 12 years.
At the Global Infrastructure Forum held in Bali in 2018, the IDBG and other development banks confirmed their intention to invest in “climate-resilience,” or sustainable and technological infrastructures. And in 2018 the international development banks created the Infrastructure Cooperation Platform to coordinate the financial efforts made by these institutions so that they all focus on sustainable infrastructures.
«The policy and infrastructure investment decisions made now will determine whether we can limit global warming to 1.5°C or not», according to a study carried out by the World Economic Forum. «The timing is particularly pressing in Latin America and the Caribbean, where spending on infrastructure has been rapidly outpaced by citizens’ demands for more energy, and better public transport and sewage systems».
These problems are also an opportunity for businesses and governments of developed countries called on to support and implement innovative projects worldwide.