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Infrastructure must be treated as a priority sector for climate action

A new report calls for radical change in how governments plan, deliver and manage infrastructure to combat climate change. 

The report, which is co-published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the University of Oxford looks in detail at the influence of infrastructure on climate action across energy, transport, water, solid waste, digital communications and buildings sectors. 

The findings highlight that infrastructure is responsible for 79% of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The report, therefore, calls on governments to treat infrastructure as a priority sector for climate action. It also calls for a unified plan to tackle emissions from infrastructure. 

The authors argue that in order to tackle climate change, governments need to radically rethink how infrastructure is planned, delivered and managed in order to make it suitable for a low-emission and resilient future.

time lapse photo of concrete highway with cars

Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP 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 decarbonization 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.’ 

The report also presents some of the key steps that practitioners can take to ensure infrastructure projects incorporate climate adaptation and mitigation measures, while still aiming for long term sustainability. Focusing on national examples, it highlights infrastructure projects that have contributed to the achievement of national climate and development targets.

‘The central question is not whether we need infrastructure, but how it can be provided in ways that are sustainable, resilient and compatible with a net-zero future.

‘There is no simple answer to the question of how to provide climate-compatible infrastructure. It requires 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,’ said Professor Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risk at the University of Oxford.

Photo by @shawnanggg

 

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