Welcome to the September 2021 issue of Voices on Infrastructure, a collection of insights on how infrastructure can help address the climate-change challenge.
Many of the obstacles and uncertainties experienced over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic have had unprecedented effects on the $11.6 trillion global infrastructure industry. While the disruptions have been significant, COVID-19 also accelerated a number of trends that were already occurring, including a renewed focus on sustainability and resilience, decarbonization, the energy transition, social equity, and digital-technology and talent strategy.
Infrastructure investment continues to be a critical driver for outcomes such as these, and bold commitments and strong collaboration across the public and private sectors are likely to prove essential to addressing climate change.
We hope the following topics in this issue of Voices help inspire leaders globally to reimagine creating paths to meeting the climate-change challenge—one of the most important themes for sustainable infrastructure:
- Climate change will spur a wave of changes to how we design, build, and operate infrastructure. Unprecedented and increasing levels of natural hazards call for innovative and increasingly efficient technologies—and for the industry to develop new skills and capabilities, from carbon accounting to green finance. This secular shift presents opportunities not only for engineering and construction firms, but also for owners.
- Investing in sustainable infrastructure to bolster adaptation and mitigation will require a new approach to public–private collaboration. Capital requirements for a net-zero world are enormous, resulting in potential stranded assets and rising production costs. However, the costs of a disorderly transition are likely to be higher still. New regulatory frameworks, metrics, and institutions could encourage private capital to invest in sustainability for the long term while ensuring equitable access for vulnerable communities.
- Capital sustainability will play a critical role in achieving sustainable development goals in the years to come. Yet today there is wide fragmentation of evaluating instruments and sustainability metrics as well as a lack of agreed-upon definitions and benchmarks. One of our goals as practitioners is to create clarity on the right sustainability metrics and instruments for companies to focus on, and thus guide capital-sustainability investments.
- Adapting our cities to climate risk. According to a recently published joint report from McKinsey and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership, there are 15 high-potential actions cities can take to address climate change, including pursuing nature-based solutions, investing in actions that increase resilience systemically, and improving equity in climate-risk adaptation. Developing a fit-for-purpose agenda based on each city’s unique economic, demographic, and climate profile will be a critical task for urban leaders.
The existential threat of climate change prompts a rethink on the part of all infrastructure participants. Only by taking a fresh look at our technologies, business models, and agendas can the industry meet the challenge—and in a sustainable, equitable way. Every challenge, though, brings with it opportunities for leaders to have a lasting impact in the fight against climate change.