Category: Infrastructure

Five innovations for a resilient built environment in Africa

Five innovations for a resilient built environment in Africa

By Olivia Nielsen and Sabine Kast

Most of the building stock that will be needed over the next century in Africa is yet to be built. As the last continent to urbanize, Sub-Saharan Africa has a unique opportunity to learn from others and adopt resilient and sustainable practices from the onset.

Africa’s cities are already booming as thousands of rural households move to find better opportunities in the cities. Though the COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily slowed this rural-to-urban migration, the trend appears to be inevitable.

The continent is not immune to natural hazards as the South gets hit by stronger and stronger cyclones, causing devastation and loss of life, homes and livelihoods. An estimated 240,000 houses were destroyed or damaged last year alone in Mozambique. North, South and east Africa also experience regular earthquakes.

A new motto has emerged claiming that there are no natural disasters, shifting the blame to poorly designed built environment and inadequate prevention systems which contribute death, destruction and economic losses.

Yet, Africa’s building sector seems to be repeating some of the mistakes of the past. Quality control remains a major issue across the continent where buildings are known to collapse even in the absence of natural hazards.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to urgently invest in disaster preparedness and mitigation. A disaster can quickly destroy decades of economic progress. While earthquakes are a quick disaster, a pandemic is a slow moving one. Our built environment must be designed to withstand these disasters and protect us.

Fortunately, resilience doesn’t need to be expensive and new technologies and innovations are constantly bringing down costs. As we are required to work remotely, we are developing new technologies to improve risk reduction during the pandemic and beyond. A few examples:

  • Machine learning to develop risk maps.  Formal maps are rarely updated in Africa and often only cover major urban areas. Yet, local risk maps are fundamental to supporting proper urban development and reducing risks in the long term. Without risk maps, it is difficult to anticipate which properties may be vulnerable to flooding, landslides or even earthquakes and typhoons. Developing these maps should be a major priority to support planned urban development and make investments that will last. When on-the-ground data collection is time-consuming or made difficult with social distancing requirements, machine learning algorithms can be used to process satellite data and build local risk maps. This technology can help Africa overcome its major map gap and support municipalities across the continent develop urban plans that mitigate the risks of flooding, landslides and sea rise. Without access to detailed risk maps, buildings may be built in precarious ways which may lead to devastating life and property losses. Fortunately, machine learning is making this mapping process cheaper and faster.
  • Artificial Intelligence to assess the built environment. The World Bank’s Global Resilient Housing Group has developed technology to capture images from satellites and drones, which are processed through an algorithm to assess structural deficiencies. Without even setting foot on the ground, thousands of buildings can be assessed in a matter of minutes and enable policymakers to prioritize interventions. For example, buildings that present a high risk of collapsing during an earthquake or typhoon can be efficiently identified and thus retrofitted before the next disaster strikes.
  • Apps to undertake remote quality control. New apps, such as iBuild+ Miyamoto, have been developed to enable homeowners to quickly undertake a damage assessment of their home. Just like telehealth, they now have expert engineers at the tip of their fingertips- for a fraction of the cost! By uploading geotagged photos of their homes, households can access expert advice at a fraction of the costs. This app can also be used to monitor the quality of construction works and identify issues in real time before it is too late.
  • Programs to address and rate the resilience of new buildings: IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is piloting a new program, the Building Resilience Index. The Index standardizes and quantifies disaster risk, gives guidance on risk management, and creates a reporting system on adaptation and resilience for the construction sector. The new tool will enable construction developers to identify ways of improving building resilience while minimizing costs. For investors and households, the Index will provide reassurance that the building can withstand significant hazards and protect both lives and properties.
  • Low-cost retrofit solutions. Retrofits are so rarely undertaken because they are deemed too expensive by both households and policymakers. Building new homes is easier to implement instead. But now, new construction technologies, such as Polypropylene (PP) bands or fiber-reinforced paint, are emerging that will not only make these retrofits cheaper but also much easier to implement. With little training, households can easily apply these retrofits themselves and bypass engineering and labor costs- which can often be crippling. Though easy to apply, these technologies are effective and enable households to greatly reduce the likelihood of structural collapse.

Construction will be a major driver of economic recovery worldwide, accounting for around 13% of the global GDP. These innovations can be part of a global effort to build (back) better. As cities in Africa continue to grow, climate change continues to accelerate and jobs are desperately needed, there has never been a better time to invest in resilience!


This article was posted on PreventionWeb.
New guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable NbS projects

New guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable NbS projects

A fresh-off-the-press IDB technical guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects that provide a substitute, compliment or safeguard to conventional ‘gray’ infrastructure projects.

Nature based Solutions (NbS) can play a central role in meeting the rising demand for infrastructure, and strengthening the resilience of infrastructure assets. They offer a cost-effective approach to enhance resilience, while providing a range of social and environmental benefits (e.g. recreational opportunities, habitat for biodiversity). In this context, NbS refer to activities associated with the protection, management, enhancement, and restoration of nature and implemented to deliver climate resilient infrastructure. This could refer to re-forestation activities for erosion control, coral reef restoration for coastal protection, and green space creation for stormwater runoff control in densely populated urban areas.

There is a high awareness of the benefits and services that NbS can provide, yet significantly less implementation within the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) context. Their potential remains largely untapped due to a number of barriers that prevent mainstreaming NbS into project development. Some of these barriers are upstream, for example, the lack of NbS incorporation into infrastructure policy and planning documents, or a lack of financial instruments to finance NbS. Other barriers are further downstream: these include, the challenges of defining the business case and accessing finance and funding, and the lack of adequate data, methods, and tools to incorporate NbS into project development.

In tackling some of these downstream challenges, the IDB, in collaboration with Acclimatise, have released a 12-step technical guidance document to integrate NbS into project development. The Guidance is targeted to planners, engineers, architects, contractors and operators interested in preparing bankable climate resilient projects that incorporate NbS either as a substitute, complement or safeguard to conventional infrastructure projects.

How was the guidance developed?

Figure 1: The twelve step process, and two cross-cutting themes, for integrating NbS into project development

In September 2019, the IDB convened a workshop with a range of LAC-based project developers and international experts with experience in NbS implementation (e.g. Deltares, World Bank, World Resources Institute, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). As LAC as a whole is early stages of NbS implementation, the IDB considered it opportune to leverage lessons learned from other parts of the world where NbS is more mainstream in project development, for example the Netherlands. At the workshop, the NbS experts iterated a preliminary technical guidance document that was drafted based on a review of LAC and international literature. The experts iterated the early stage draft and helped answer important questions such as ‘is this how it works in practice?’ ‘what steps or processes still need to be incorporated in this document?’, ‘what are the important LAC-specific elements that must be included?’.

The NbS experts shared their experiences and insights which were incorporated in the document, both at the workshop and throughout an extensive review in the months after.  The end product is the result of a participatory process incorporating multiple iterations with field experts, and should be considered a reference (or “go-to”) document for project developers interested in developing NbS projects in LAC, and globally.

The Technical Guidance Document is available in English and in Spanish and can be accessed here.


Cover photo by Michael Benz on Unsplash.
Acclimatise co-authors Natural Infrastructure chapter in IDB’s flagship publication, Development in the Americas

Acclimatise co-authors Natural Infrastructure chapter in IDB’s flagship publication, Development in the Americas

The Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) flagship publication “Development in the Americas” this year focuses on ways to improve the region’s infrastructure development to build resilience to climate change and its impacts. The report, “From Structures to Services: A New Vision for Infrastructure”, outlines a path to improve infrastructure services and manage fundamental challenges to achieve higher sustainability, affordability and quality in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

Acclimatise co-authored chapter 8 of the report “Back to Nature: Alternatives to Concrete and Steel” which looks at the effectiveness of natural and combined natural-grey infrastructure compared to traditional approaches. The chapter explores six types of Natural Infrastructure (NI); coral reefs, mangroves, forests, constructed wetlands, green roofs and green spaces, across four geophysical settings; marine, coastal, terrestrial, and urban. The chapter discusses the efficacy of NI, cost-effectiveness, and also barriers and enablers to implementation.

The wider report covers tangible actions that can be taken to improve infrastructure services, and importantly the change in mindset that is required to implement novel solutions to complex challenges. It’s not just the ‘hardware’ that needs fixing (e.g. roads, power plants, water treatment plants) but also the software (e.g. regulations, governance) that needs updating.

The report argues that NI is one element of a new infrastructure paradigm that can help meet infrastructure requirements in a sustainable, affordable and high-quality manner. It involves managing natural (such as mangroves, forests) ecosystems and integrating natural and quasi-natural (e.g green roofs, bioswales) elements into the built environment, to deliver infrastructure services

As NI is new, it doesn’t have the long legacy in meeting infrastructure services in the same way that concrete and steel does, and the data, information and know-how that underpin it. Therefore, leveraging NI will require investments related to gathering and analyzing data to determine location-specific efficacy, planning, and securing financing. Yet the region can glean lessons learnt from other parts of the world where NI has become integrated into planning and development (e.g. the Netherlands) to leverage LAC’s endowment of natural capital to deliver infrastructure services.

Learn more about the potential of NI to achieve infrastructure services in the 2020 DIA.


Blackman, A., R. Guerrero, R. Hamaker-Taylor, A. Rycerz, M. Schling, L. Villalobos. 2020. “Back to Nature: Alternatives to Concrete and Steel.” Chapter 8 in E. Cavallo, A. Powell and T. Serebrisky (eds.). From Structures to Services: The Path to Better Infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington, DC: InterAmerican Development Bank: 175-191.


Cover photo by Ben O’bro on Unsplash.
Green infrastructure provides a viable alternative to seawalls for storm surge risk

Green infrastructure provides a viable alternative to seawalls for storm surge risk

By Will Bugler

Parks, green spaces and plant-covered hills are an effective defence against storm surges and tsunamis according to a Stanford University study. The research concludes that carefully engineered green infrastructure can offer similar levels of protection as large seawalls, while also benefiting for marine and coastal biodiversity, the aesthetic environment, and reducing costs.

The study, published on 4th May in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, quantified how tsunami waves of different heights interact with structures of various sizes and shapes at the coast. The research calls into question the wisdom of conventional approaches to coastal storm management, which are dominated by hard infrastructure development such as construction of large seawalls.

Three examples of tsunami mitigation parks along the ring of fire that are currently being planned and/or constructed in South Java, Indonesia (image courtesy of A.M.); Miyagi Prefecture, Japan and Constitución, Chile. Miyagi prefecture image and Constitución image credit: Morino Project and Felipe Diaz Contardo (photographer).

Seawalls have many disadvantages. They are expensive and inflexible, so they are hard to adapt if, for example, sea levels rise by more than expected. They can also damage marine ecosystems, and damage local economies in sectors such as fishing or tourism.

“If the wall collapses, the consequences are life shattering,” said senior study author Jenny Suckale, an assistant professor of geophysics in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “Seawalls can not only create a false sense of security that can discourage swift evacuations. They can also end up breaking apart into blocks of rubble that tsunami waves then toss throughout a city.”

“It’s sort of intuitive that the moment you see it as a threat, you build a wall,” Suckale said. But while it’s true that seawalls can address some tsunami risks, the factors that make a place livable can be far more complicated. Most coastal communities want to maximize their well-being, not minimize their risk at the expense of everything else,” she said. “Do you really want to live behind a huge concrete wall because there is a small chance that a big tsunami will hit you? Let’s put more options on the table and have an informed debate.”

Green infrastructure must be carefully designed

When considering alternatives to sea walls, the study found that green infrastructure solutions needed to be carefully designed and well built in order to deliver the desired levels of protection. The study notes that while coastal forests offer protection against storm surges, it takes decades for trees to grow large enough to offer robust protection, and they are not viable in some areas where protection is most needed – such as to protect vulnerable towns and cities.

The study noted that as much attention needs to be paid to the design and engineering of green infrastructure as to conventional infrastructure development. According to the study, vegetation alone, has little effect on an incoming wave’s energy. However, plants play an important role in fighting erosion, thereby helping to maintain the shape, height and spacing of hills and mounds, which do offer significant protection.

Suckale says that to date, green infrastructure has been designed more for aesthetics than for performance. “Our study shows that design matters. There’s a wrong and a right spacing; there’s a wrong and a right shape,”

“You should not use aesthetic criteria to design this. Right now, our designs are not strategic enough,” she said. “This paper is a starting point for understanding how to design these parks to derive maximum risk mitigation benefits from them.”

To test the efficacy of hills and mounds in providing coastal defences, the researchers modelled what happens when a tsunami wave hits a single row of hills. They found that mounds reflect and dampen a tsunami wave’s energy about as well as a seawall. Hills were also found to perform equally well in the case of a very extreme event – a one-in-a-thousand-year tsunami. As a result, the study concluded that there is little extra value in combining hills with seawalls.

Along with improving the design green infrastructure, the study also recommends that more space should be given between urban development and the water’s edge. The researchers note that homes and infrastructure should be set back with a broad buffer zone between them and multiple staggered rows of hills that are larger toward the shore and smaller inland.

Read the study here.


Cover image Sunabe seawall, Okinawa, Japan
Climate resilient public private partnerships: A toolkit for decision makers

Climate resilient public private partnerships: A toolkit for decision makers

By Written by Gianleo Frisari, Anaitee Mills, Mariana Silva, Marcel Ham, Elisa Donadi, Christine Shepherd, and Irene Pohl

This “Toolkit for Climate Resilient Infrastructure PPP” and the accompanying report “Improving Climate Resilience in Public Private Partnerships in Jamaica” are the result of an 18-month project of the Climate Change Division at the IDB in collaboration with the Public-Private Partnership team at Development Bank of Jamaica and IMG Rebel.

The aim has always been to provide DBJ’s PPP professionals and, ultimately PPP professionals in the Caribbean Region, with pragmatic, practical solutions to integrate the assessment of climate risks and resiliency opportunities in the preparation of infrastructure projects through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

The need to consider climate change issues in the provision of infrastructure services through PPPs originates from two key observations in the context of Jamaica, but easily extendable to other climate vulnerable countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: On one side, these countries face many risks associated with climate change, with their infrastructure stock vulnerable to hazard events like hurricanes and landslides, as well as to chronic slow changes as sea level rise and perturbations in temperature and precipitations patterns. At the same time, Jamaica and many countries as such have been seeking to develop and build its infrastructure with an increased role for the private sector, developing Public Private Partnerships models that are constantly evolving in the region. As very long-dated contractual relationships, the success of PPPs is highly dependent on an accurate, sustainable and efficient distribution of risks and benefits between the public and private counterparts of the transaction – risk distribution that could be significantly perturbated by climate change, making the task of structuring efficient 20-30 years PPP contracts incredibly difficult if those risks are not identified, assessed and managed throughout the whole process of structuring a PPP transaction.

This project was borne then of an effort supported by IDB and the Government of Jamaica to understand how, if at all, Jamaica currently considers climate change within its PPP policies and project development processes and what steps the country can take to ensure that it does so. Considering the high potential for replication for such instruments, and the common challenges that several climate vulnerable countries face when developing their infrastructure projects, this companion Toolkit has been developed, including decision support tools for policy makers and developers partaking in the PPP development process and which applies to Jamaica as well as any country government seeking to ensure their PPPs are more resilient, was developed in conjunction with this effort. Report and Toolkit as well have been developed following the typical structure of the PPP process, from Project Identification, to the Business Case, the Transaction Structuring and the Management of the Contract during the whole life of the PPP project. In each phase, climate change risks may arise, as well as opportunities for an improved design for resilient and/or more productive infrastructure, and it would be important for such cases that risks and opportunities alike would be considered and followed-through in the different phases of the transaction to ensure, for example, that critical aspects identified in the project preparation phase are then included in the preparation of the tender documents and, as well, inform the performance indicators in the contract management phase.

The analysis for the report and toolkit has identified several instruments and tools already used to address climate change issues in the context of infrastructure production – albeit not always in a systematic way – that could be integrated in the PPP process in a more institutionalized and standardized manner, identifying options for a low-cost and seamless implementation in a Resilient PPP model. The Toolkit, finally, is to be considered a living document; we hope it could provide initial guidance to professionals implementing PPP projects in the region, while being open to improvements and updating as we collect evidence on other instruments that can be used to manage climate change risks and/ or create resiliency opportunities for the infrastructure of the Latin America and the Caribbean.

Download the toolkit and accompanying report here.


This article was originally published on the IDB website.
Cover photo by wilsan u on Unsplash.
With construction paused, let’s rethink roads and railway projects to protect people and nature

With construction paused, let’s rethink roads and railway projects to protect people and nature

By Charis Enns, Alex Awiti, and Brock Bersaglio

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta fumed at construction delays on the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor in 2019 – a US$22 billion (£18 billion) transport network that includes a 32-berth port, highways, railways and pipelines. But these delays, caused by financing gaps, afforded fishers, pastoral farmers and conservationists time to challenge the project in court, and push for amended plans that better protect local habitats and migratory routes used by people, livestock and wildlife.

While major road and rail projects often break up wilderness and grazing lands, a sudden pause in construction can offer a lifeline to people fighting to protect these areas.

Lockdown restrictions and the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 have made sourcing labour and materials more difficult, increasing construction costs. The result is that infrastructure building has slowed globally, creating a unique opportunity to redesign road and rail projects around the world so that they benefit the people and environments they share the landscape with.

Barriers to travel

Dozens of new roads, railways and pipelines are under construction in sub-Saharan Africa due to a surge in investment in recent years. Although they are promised to bolster economic growth, our research shows that many of these new mega-highways and high-speed rail lines were approved without meaningful consultation between planners and local people. As a result, they tend to become new barriers that are difficult and dangerous to traverse, forcing people to travel long distances to reach safe crossing points.

In dry regions, this can make it difficult to reach vital water sources. Amid farmland and forests, construction can push people from their land or force them to travel further to reach it. Deforestation usually comes before construction too, which encourages people to migrate further into woodland, building new settlements that drive more forest clearing.

Forest is cleared to make way for road construction in central Tanzania. Charis Enns, Author provided

Poorly designed roads and rail lines can take a heavy toll on human and animal life. During our research between 2017 and 2019, we found too few safe crossing points, inadequate signage and lax speed enforcement along new highways and railways in Kenya and Tanzania, resulting in numerous road accidents.

Conservationists are particularly worried by growing roadkill sightings along a new highway in northern Kenya. Endemic and endangered species like the Grevy’s zebra are often killed in collisions with cars and lorries after wandering onto roads that now criss-cross their range. As one pastoral farmer living alongside the new highway exclaimed

How many animals have died? Uncountable.

The alternative

Fortunately, there are lots of proven strategies for preventing transport projects from fragmenting habitats, such as building passages across new highways and railways that migratory species can use. Repairing environmental damage caused by construction, by filling in quarries that produce construction materials, for example, can also help restore grazing land for livestock and wildlife.

One of many quarries dug during construction of the Central Corridor in Tanzania. Brock Bersaglio, Author provided

The Mongu-Kalabo road constructed over the Barotse floodplain in western Zambia shows these ideas in action. Completed in 2016, the road was built with 26 bridges over the floodplains and regular culverts between bridges, allowing water and wildlife to move across the floodplain without impeding road traffic and trade, even during seasonal floods.

The road was also planned with local cultures in mind. Wetland livelihoods, such as fishing and floodplain farming, aren’t affected by the road since the regular movement of fish and water remains largely undisturbed. By maintaining these flows across the floodplain, cultural traditions have been protected. The annual Kuomboka ceremony that takes place at the end of the rainy season can continue, when the Litunda (king of the Lozi people) moves from his compound in the Barotse floodplain to higher ground.

A bridge in the Mongu-Kalabo road, built over the Barotse floodplain in western Zambia. Charis Enns, Author provided

There is no single blueprint for building roads and railways that allow humans and nature to thrive. Wherever construction is planned, public participation is vital. Gathering the knowledge local people have of their environment can improve the design of these projects, but this insight cannot come from rushed consultations or impact assessments conducted from a distance. Only meaningful and ongoing engagement with local communities and environmental authorities will do.

Major infrastructure investment will likely be key to pulling the global economy out of recession. The opportunity to mould upcoming projects won’t last forever, so let’s ensure any new road and rail project is designed with respect to the rights of people and nature.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash.
Acclimatise-led webinar series makes progress on mainstreaming climate change at CDIA

Acclimatise-led webinar series makes progress on mainstreaming climate change at CDIA

By Uma Pal and Jennifer Steeves

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Acclimatise has been working towards enabling a smooth transition from in-person meetings and workshops with clients to continuing conversations and strategically planning upcoming activities on web-based platforms. As part of Acclimatise’s engagement with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), supported by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Expertise France, a series of calls and webinars were conducted in March and April to reach consensus on the way ahead for effectively mainstreaming climate change in CDIA’s processes for enabling climate resilient infrastructure development in secondary cities in Asia Pacific. 

Acclimatise conducted a capacity assessment workshop in February in Manila to better understand the CDIA team’s current capacity and future goals for mainstreaming climate change. The workshop culminated in the identification of potential entry points for integrating climate change within CDIA’s project development processes. This was to be followed by a second in-depth capacity building workshop in Manila in March, aimed at building technical knowledge of CDIA staff on climate change. In light of travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Acclimatise and CDIA have agreed upon a more flexible approach to achieving the assignment’s goals, prioritising activities which can be carried out through virtual meetings and desk-based review.

Over two weeks, through two webinars and numerous online exchanges, the team has prioritised activities, agreed timelines and assigned responsibilities to develop specific interventions to equip CDIA to better mainstream climate change in their daily work. These interventions relate to developing a robust approach to climate assessments, designing stakeholder engagement, communications, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activities to better reflect climate change, and enhancing existing CDIA templates. These tasks will be undertaken by working groups composed of Acclimatise and CDIA team members. Subsequent targeted working group calls are being planned to discuss each task in detail and develop a roadmap for development.

Both Acclimatise and CDIA continue to monitor the global situation and plan to organise trainings to enhance technical knowledge on climate change once travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, our teams will be making progress on the targeted interventions to mainstream climate change; see CDIA’s website for further detail on the first webinar’s content and the way ahead.


Cover photo by the Global Environment Facility on Flickr.
UK’s critical infrastructure faces systemic risks from climate change

UK’s critical infrastructure faces systemic risks from climate change

By Will Bugler

A new briefing note from the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), shows that the UK’s critical infrastructure like transport, energy, water and telecoms are vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. The note, released last month, also stresses that the interconnected nature of critical infrastructure systems means that shocks to one area often spread to other sectors which can lead to significant social and economic disruption.

The short report examines the main climate-related risks to the UK’s economic infrastructure, measures to reduce these risks and the main challenges to implementing resilience measures. Risks to the UK’s infrastructure emerge from both long-term changes in average climate which can reduce the capacity and efficiency of certain infrastructure types, and also from near-term, extreme weather events which can cause failure and disruption of essential services.

The report notes that, as a result of climate change, the UK is experiencing rising temperatures and sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and an increase in the frequency and severity of certain extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts and heatwaves). These effects are already decreasing the capacity and efficiency of key infrastructure systems and causing direct damage to assets.

The recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) 2019 report to Parliament concluded that while some progress has been made, no infrastructure sectors were reducing risks at an appropriate rate. This is significant as all infrastructure sectors must increase their resilience to ensure that the UK can continue to function under climate change. As the report notes, “infrastructure sectors are highly interdependent, relying on several other sectors to function reliably. This means that failure in one sector can spread rapidly between sectors and geographical areas.”

However, despite the interconnected nature of the risk, there appears to be a lack of overall co-ordination of resilience planning for UK critical infrastructure. “Stakeholders have highlighted that [there] is a lack of collaboration between infrastructure sectors, which limits providers’ understanding of risks arising from interdependencies.” According to the report.

Part of the problem lies in the differentiated but connected nature of the challenges faced by different infrastructure sectors. Many of the sectors share risks, but the level of planning and implementation of measures to increase resilience varies between sectors and can involve both technical and strategic measures. Sectors also have their own independent governance and operating processes and procedures that are often not well aligned.

In order to encourage resilience planning, some sectors have been encouraged to act through government schemes or by the industry regulator. For example, Ofgem (the energy regulator) offers financial rewards for electricity and gas companies that meet certain performance targets.

In the lead up to COP26 there will be increased pressure on core infrastructure sectors to demonstrate their ability to withstand climate-related shocks and stresses. With this in mind, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (an agency that provides impartial, expert advice and recommendations to Government) is undertaking a study of the UK’s economic infrastructure resilience, due for publication in Spring of this year.

Download the full report: Infrastructure and climate change


Cover photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash
Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

By Jennifer Steeves

Acclimatise has joined forces with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), in an assignment supported by the Agence française de développement (AFD) and Expertise France, to integrate climate change into CDIA’s infrastructure development activities in Asia Pacific. Last month, Acclimatise’s Senior Advisor in South Asia Jennifer Steeves travelled to Manila to run a capacity assessment workshop with CDIA, to better understand the team’s current capacity and future goals for mainstreaming climate change. This was a first step in designing a capacity building programme and developing practical approaches to ensure CDIA considers climate change throughout its project development process.

Infrastructure has played and will continue to play an important role in economic growth and poverty reduction in the Asia Pacific region, with $1.5 trillion/year in infrastructure investment required in the next decade (ADB, 2019). CDIA, established in 2007, is a multi-donor trust fund managed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that supports medium-sized cities in Asia and the Pacific to prepare sustainable and bankable infrastructure projects, link these projects to finance, and strengthen individual and organisational capacities in cities. CDIA supports infrastructure projects that promote poverty reduction, environmental improvement, climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, and good governance.

Though CDIA estimates that eighty percent of its work contributes to climate change adaptation and/or mitigation to some extent, it is now looking to strengthen the way it considers climate change concerns at every stage of its project development process. Supported by AFD and Expertise France, this intervention in turn will help ensure that CDIA’s partner cities have the best chance to identify climate-resilient and low-carbon infrastructure projects at an early stage – and importantly, link these to finance.

Acclimatise will be working with the CDIA team over the coming months toward this aim. Having now identified potential entry points for integrating climate change into CDIA’s operations, from scoping mission to ToR development to monitoring & evaluation, the next step will involve a delivering a bespoke training programme, followed by developing concrete guidance and interventions within the project cycle to systematically address climate risks and opportunities. The assignment will end with field missions to selected partner cities to apply the approaches developed with CDIA.


Cover photo provided by author.
UNECE study maps transport infrastructure at high risk due to climate change in Pan-European region and Canada

UNECE study maps transport infrastructure at high risk due to climate change in Pan-European region and Canada

From road and rail networks to ports, airports and inland waterways, critical transport resources are facing unprecedented threats from a climate which is already changing. Spain, for example, has just suffered the most powerful storms experienced in decades, destroying bridges, cutting off roads and railway lines and submerging entire towns in coastal areas. 

In the UK, annual costs related to extreme precipitation/floods and other events, estimated at £50 million in 2010, could increase to up to £500 million by the 2040s. In the European Union, future costs for bridge protection against flooding have been estimated at over €500 million per year

However, adapting transport systems to rising climate risks has so far received relatively low attention. Helping to address this gap, UNECE today released a first of its kind study mapping key areas of the main inland transport networks and nodes, where potential climate risks in the Pan-European region and Canada may increasingly be faced. 

Since the bulk of the transport infrastructure in the region was designed for the climate of the 20th century and has been subject to low public investment in recent decades, it is crucial to map precisely the vulnerability of these assets to extreme climate events. 

Mapping growing climate risks to transport infrastructure

Digital maps developed for the UNECE region show the main transportation networks, overlain by the spatial distribution of climate change projections. This presents an initial perspective of areas of potential risk – or “hotspots” – which could warrant more in-depth assessment, offering a tool that will help to prioritize adaptation efforts. This pioneering work has no equivalent in other regions.  

The study illustrates projections for key climatic factors: 

  • Flooding from high precipitation and extreme storms

Associated with related impacts including landslides and slope failures, these will bring major risks across the region for all modes of transport (road – and airport – infrastructure, railway and inland waterways). 

Areas calling for more detailed analysis include most major “E-Road” arteries, major rail networks and the most highly populated and economically developed areas in middle and low basins of major European rivers (e.g. the Danube, Rhine, Elbe, Po, Dnieper, Don and Volga rivers).  

Key transport networks likely to be affected in Canada are in coastal British Columbia – including both Vancouver and Prince Rupert, which are major gateways to Asia – and in Eastern Canada.

  • Rising sea levels and greater wave activity

Rising sea levels and greater wave activity causing erosion put vital coastal transport infrastructure (i.e. coastal roads, railways, seaports and airports) at risk.  Over 60% of EU seaports may be under high inundation risk by 2100, causing disruptions to operations and damages to port infrastructure and vessels, especially along the North Sea coast, where the traffic of over 500 ports accounts for up to 15% of the world’s cargo transport.

Rising sea levels and increased mobility of summer sea ice are projected to affect the region’s entire Northern and Artic coastlines.  

  • Rising temperatures

Rising temperatures linked to increased heat waves and drier and hotter summers will affect roads, where pavement damages, damages to bridges and increased landslides in mountainous areas are among key risks. Areas considered particularly worthy of more detailed analysis include E-Roads in Southern Europe (South-Eastern France, Italy, Western Balkans, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey) as well as in Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland). 

On major rail networks – where potential impacts include buckling of tracks, slope failures and speed restrictions – infrastructure in the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, France), northern Europe, and Croatia are among those that could warrant more in-depth review.

Warming is also associated with increased navigational risks on inland waterways, with significant implications for the transport of goods and people, which is already problematic in parts of central Europe.

  • Permafrost melting

This will bring significant stability risks to the road and rail transport infrastructure across Arctic regions of Europe and Canada. 

Sharing country experiences can inform responses

The study builds on work since 2010 of a dedicated UNECE Expert Group, gathering governments from the region – as well as some from outside including Australia and Japan – and UN bodies such as UNFCCC, WMO/IPCC, UNCTAD as well as the European Commission. 

Complementing the mapping, the study draws on country experiences in the form of case studies, demonstrating a range of efforts that have been undertaken to analyse and adapt to climate change impacts. Examples include: 

  • Analysis of future flooding of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany. In this scenario, the closure of network sections for 21 days in 2030 due to flooding of the federal highway and the closure of ferries would lead to the rerouting of around 7,000 vehicles, 56 long-distance trains, 78 local trains transporting 500,000 people, and 119 freight trains per day.
  • Rating of extreme weather risks coupled with analysis of the physical vulnerability of road infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and viaducts of a 750 km road network in South-Eastern France.
  • Preparation of guidelines for the adaptation of transport assets in coastal areas in Iceland, including for construction of ports and harbours on which the country is dependent for freight flows.
  • Analysis of risks and impact on operations linked to rising temperatures for Canada’s northern road network, including winter roads built over ice or compacted snow, and all-season roads built through permafrost regions.

Analysis calls for strengthened adaptation efforts 

Among the key recommendations for future work outlined in the report are for public administrations to make available geographical data for their transport networks and nodes, especially those of international importance, and to establish all their transport infrastructure, including local assets, in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

Analysis will need to go beyond the current spatial resolution of 12.5 km in Europe and 10 km in Canada.

The Expect Group further calls on all countries, including those with little or no experience of climate change adaptation work, to participate in its efforts.

The analytical work undertaken could eventually lead to the revision or updating of the minimum technical specifications for the construction of transport infrastructure covered by the 4 UN transport infrastructure agreements administered by UNECE: the European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (AGR) for roads; the European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC); the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN); and the European Agreement on Important International Combined Transport Lines and Related Installations (AGTC) for intermodal transport. 

The study is available at: https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=53818


This press release was originally published on the UNECE website.
Cover photo by Cristian S. on Unsplash