Climate change: a global challenge for infrastructure

By Peter Baum and Craig Davies

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Climate change: a global challenge for infrastructure

Expert forum in Rabat discusses climate-resilient infrastructure finance

A series of extreme weather events are not only dominating the news but also shining a spotlight on widely held concerns about the potential dangers of climate change.

In the United States Hurricane Harvey brought devastation and enormous infrastructure damage across Texas.

In India the old town of Mumbai is crumbling from heavy monsoon rains and unprecedented floods that have affected wide areas of South Asia.

In the light of these events an expert forum held in Morocco’s capital Rabat this week is even more timely and urgent. Organised by the Standing Committee for Finance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the forum is discussing ways to mobilise finance for climate-resilient infrastructure.

Supported by the government of Morocco and in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) the conference is bringing together various experts, including policy-makers from emerging and advanced economies, industry representatives and delegates from international financial institutions and rating agencies.

Finding responses to the challenge of climate change in the area of infrastructure is also becoming more and more pressing. Infrastructure decisions are long-term decisions. Infrastructure built or upgraded now will normally still be in full use in 2050 and beyond, when major impacts of climate change are forecast to come into effect.

A significant part of the conference is dedicated to sharing best practice, lessons learned and discussing how to create an environment supportive of climate resilience.

Industry-led associations such as the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) will present their efforts to develop climate resilience guidance for their sectors.

Another example is the effort to measure the impact of climate resilience intervention, which is important for quantifying the benefit to investors.

The multilateral development banks (including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the EBRD) are developing common principles for climate resilience metrics for their investments, while the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s is also working on metrics to quantify the impact of resilience investment.

The discussions at the forum will also touch on donor support for climate-resilient infrastructure through international climate finance mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). Both are represented in Rabat.

The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to make finance flows consistent with climate-resilient development and donor funds are crucial to achieving this objective.

Morocco, the host country of this year’s forum, was recently awarded a €32 million grant by the GCF that enables a transformative water transfer scheme to the Saïss plain, co-financed by the EBRD, to improve the climate resilience of its irrigated agriculture.  

As a major investor in infrastructure development in the countries where it works across Europe, Asia and Africa, the EBRD has been a leader in climate-resilient infrastructure investments for many years.

Since 2010 the Bank has invested over €1.1 billion in dedicated climate adaptation measures in support of 140 infrastructure projects with a total investment volume of more than €3.1 billion.

This includes the upgrade of key water infrastructure to adapt to increasing water scarcity in arid countries in Northern Africa or the rehabilitation and reinforcement of road infrastructure to better withstand flooding and landslides in the Western Balkans.

Climate-resilient investments have also been made in the energy sector, where hydropower plants in Central Asia were upgraded to adapt to the increasing variability of water inflows.

The relevance of such measures has been formally recognised in the EBRD’s Green Economy Transition approach where the volume of green financing is targeted to increase from an average of 24 per cent of EBRD Annual Business Investment in the 10 years up to 2016 to 40 per cent by 2020. Climate change adaptation is explicitly included in the GET approach.

Peter Baum and Craig Davies work for the EBRD Energy Efficiency team

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