Future Calls For Changes in Infrastructure Planning

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A radical change in infrastructure planning, delivery and management is key to climate and development targets, according to a new study by UN agencies.

The report “Infrastructure for climate action published ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) by UNOPS, UNEP and the University of Oxford finds that infrastructure is responsible for 79 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and accounts for 88 per cent of all adaptation costs.

In the forward, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said; “as we seek to bridge the infrastructure gap and improve the quality of life of people everywhere, it is critical that we invest in sustainable infrastructure that adapts to future uncertain climate conditions; contributes to the decarbonisation of the economy; protects biodiversity and minimizes pollution. Sustainable infrastructure is the only way we can ensure that people, nature and the environment thrive together.”

On the report, UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo said: “this report highlights that radical changes to how we approach infrastructure are needed to stop the worst effects of climate change. It is ultimately crucial that we get this right as the infrastructure decisions made today will determine the quality of our common future.”

Meanwhile, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risk at the University of Oxford Jim Hall said that there was no simple answer to the question of how to provide climate-compatible infrastructure. “It required a myriad of choices, from the moment an infrastructure project is first conceived, to the end of its life when it is decommissioned or repurposed,” the professor said.


Noting that COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase of digital communication, the report said that emissions from digital communication could rise in such a situation but was far less than the emissions caused by transport and building sectors.


The study stressed that 54 per cent of all future adaptation costs need to be spent on water sector, more than in a any other sector.  These costs originate from hazard protection provided by this sector that can reduce risks from floods, sea level rise, storm surge events, and other climate impacts, the UN agencies said.

“Traditional built protective infrastructure (e.g. sea walls) will play an important role in risk reduction, nature-based solutions (such as reforestation, mangroves and wetlands) represent an effective and resource-efficient alternative that can offer a multitude of co-benefits including carbon sequestration and the enhancement of habitats. Policies that protect those exposed to hazards, in particular those most vulnerable within society, will also play a critical role in managing overall climate risk, the report said.

  • Prioritize policies protect nature and expand the use of nature-based solutions as a means of sustainable service delivery in different sectors, with co-benefits for climate and other aspects of sustainable development.
  • Give importance to interventions in the enabling environment as cost-effective means of creating impact across multiple projects in different sectors and throughout the life cycle.
  • Prioritize policies that encourage environmental and social protection and risk reduction.
  • Emphasis on policies that enhance integration to ensure cross-sectoral collaboration
  • Ensure that all practitioners (across the lifecycle) are engaged, motivated, incentivized and empowered to target climate action and other sustainable development objectives.
  • Ensure that all areas of the life cycle operate effectively


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