Despite the fact that global warming remains a controversial subject, the majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and that changing temperatures and extreme weather patterns may seriously affect economic growth in the coming years. So, to prepare ourselves for these changes we should rethink the way we live, and, more importantly, the way we build.
Infrastructure is currently vulnerable to climate change: natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, droughts, and cyclones constantly cause heavy losses and damage for many societies. According to a UN report, the economic losses from catastrophic natural events are on an average between $250 billion and $300 billion USD annually and have quadrupled in the past 30 years. Disasters aside, slow onset changes such as increasing temperatures are also likely to have significant impacts on infrastructure. Ignoring these changes may increase the costs of infrastructure projects over their ‘life cycle’. For example, research in the US has shown that 35% of the roads built over the past 20 years were made from non-heat resistent materials, and this oversight will cost the US government an additional $13-14 billion in the next couple of years.
In light of this, an increasing number of countries are taking a closer look at climate change risks when planning and implementing infrastructure projects. A particularly good example is China, with its Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Arguably the boldest infrastructure development project of the 21st century, the architects of BRI treat climate change quite seriously. During the first Belt and Road Summit in 2017, UN Environment and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced the International Coalition of Organizations project, which aims to ensure sustainable and planet-friendly growth.
However, BRI – with its sustainable approach and future-oriented thinking – is more the exception than the rule. Despite the fact that the global community and international organisations are calling for smart infrastructure solutions that strengthen responses to disasters and climate change, few organisations and investors are actually answering this call.
Because of the critical nature of climate change DOC Research Institute will continue researching this topic, under the theme Infrastructure as the Backbone of Global Inclusive Development. DOC RI believes that sustainable infrastructure is key to tackling the three central challenges that the global community is facing today: reigniting growth, delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, and reducing climate risk in line with the Paris Agreement.