Global carbon emissions reached an all-time high in 2018. As environmental risks and extreme weather events increase, a landmark 2018 UN report warned the planet has just 12 years left to prevent climate change disaster. The World Health Organization estimates that 230,000 deaths annually will be attributable to climate change by 2030, while the World Bank believes 100 million more people will be living in poverty and 133 million will be climate-migrants. The estimated economic cost of climate-related disasters worldwide has skyrocketed, from US$895 billion between 1978 and 1997 to US$2.25 trillion in the period from 1998 to 2017, and is set to grow further.
As well as making significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, governments and multilateral institutions must start investing in resilience upfront. Many are already incorporating resilience into urban policy and infrastructure design in order to reduce energy use, carbon emissions and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Improvements in weather forecasting and early warning systems will also help enhance preparedness for climate-related natural hazards.
The World Bank is to double investments in climate action to US$200 billion, with equal weight on curbing emissions and adaptation measures (such as building more robust homes, schools and infrastructure, and preparing farmers for climate change). According to the OECD, US$95 trillion in global infrastructure investments is needed by 2030.
However, budget constraints mean that funding from governments and international organizations will not be sufficient, necessitating partnerships that leverage public and private capital. Private investment is currently low, dampened by insufficient regulatory incentives and the need to substantiate a business case for investment. So governments need to reduce the risk of investing in resilient infrastructure projects to attract private-sector involvement. They must join forces with companies to develop strategies that incorporate resilience leading practices into the design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance of all future infrastructure projects — whether through traditional procurements, PPPs or innovative financing mechanisms such as green or social impact bonds.
In 2019, as old certainties continue to dissolve, the landscape for governments will doubtless become more challenging. But there are opportunities, too. Flexible and far-sighted governments can help forge a new world order by embracing policy innovations, forming partnerships with the private sector and with reformed multilateral organizations, tightening regulations where necessary, and developing global governance and standards for adopting technology.