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How to Scale Up Sustainable Infrastructure

The global transition to a low-carbon economy is facing significant headwinds, and bolder action is urgently needed to avoid unacceptable global warming risks. Addressing current bottlenecks in the development and financing of sustainable infrastructure can help to transform a critical sector and step up the fight against climate change.

NEW YORK – Climate change is arguably the most pressing global challenge today, and we are not tackling it quickly enough. The 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to keep the increase in global temperature well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But current pledges by national governments to cut emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) still leave global warming on track to exceed 3°C by the end of this century. To prevent this, we need to act faster, on a larger scale, and more disruptively – particularly in developing and financing sustainable infrastructure projects.

Existing infrastructure – defined broadly as transport, energy, telecommunications, water, and buildings – accounts for almost 70% of global GHG emissions. Moreover, as low- and middle-income countries drive population growth and urbanization, they will account for most of the expected doubling of infrastructure assets by 2050, mostly through greenfield projects. If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, we must roll out new, sustainable infrastructure at scale, while decommissioning or retrofitting old, unsustainable assets.

So far, however, this goal has proved elusive. The supply of bankable sustainable infrastructure projects has been inadequate and sub-scale, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. And financing also has been slow to materialize, especially from the private sector.

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