Infrastructure worldwide and throughout history has directly contributed to the climate crisis—accounting for 60-70% of global greenhouse gas emissions through transportation, buildings, electricity production and industrial processes, such as cement production and waste treatment. The carbon-intensive sectors that account for most of the world’s energy infrastructure—coal, oil, and natural gas—are both ecologically destructive and economically inefficient in today’s economic landscape—especially considering unpriced negative externalities associated with extraction, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and human health effects.

Contribution of infrastructure to global greenhouse gas emissions
60-70 %
  • Electricity and Heat Production
  • Agriculture, Forestry & Other Land Use
  • Buildings
  • Transport
  • Industry
  • Other Energy

Direct GHG emission shares (in % of total anthropogenic GHG emissions) per sector in 2010. Source: IPCC, 2018

Roadmaps for mitigation

Sustainable infrastructure can play an enormous role in mitigating climate change and setting the world on a safe climate trajectory. Renewable energy, smart electricity grids, high-speed railway systems, electric vehicles, and inclusive public transportation are all critical elements of a sustainable infrastructure portfolio and should be supported, accelerated, and delivered whenever prudent and possible.

Sustainable energy infrastructure makes economic sense. Spending on renewables and energy efficiency creates five times more jobs per USD 1 million invested than spending on fossil fuels. Transforming energy infrastructure systems into sustainable ones could boost global GDP by USD 98 trillion by 2050, delivering 2.4% more GDP growth than current plans.

Adaptation: the critical complement to mitigation

Adaptation is the process of adjusting to new conditions. In the context of climate change, it is an intentional, necessary, and time-bound process that humans must undertake if we are to thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Adaptation is the critical complement to mitigation efforts. As we already face numerous climate-related stressors (droughts, floods, saltwater intrusion, wildfires, species migrations, etc.), even if we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we would still have to navigate—or adapt—to a disrupted and profoundly altered planetary baseline.

Spending of USD 50 billion per year on flood defenses for coastal cities would reduce expected losses in 2050 from USD 1 trillion to USD 60 – 63 billion

People across the planet are designing ways to do so with infrastructure assets and planning in mind:

This is not a question of deciding which strategy humans need to pursue. We need to mitigate and adapt simultaneously, or we risk a morbid future with both runaway climate change and a society unprepared and ill-equipped to handle these devastating changes—ones that we brought upon ourselves.

Interested in learning more?

Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

By: OECD

This paper outlines a framework for making new and existing infrastructure networks resilient to climate change.

The State of Cities Climate Finance

By: CCFLA

This report examines the current state of urban climate investment, the barriers to reaching the needed investment levels, and the steps to overcoming these challenges.

6 Lessons on Energy Decarbonization from Countries Leading the Way

By: World Resources Institute

This article provides lessons learned on energy transition from countries that are leading in that field.

Climate change adaptation of major infrastructure projects

By: European Commission

This study maps existing resources for climate change adaptation in the 28 Member States of the EU that could facilitate the assessment of climate change aspects at project level.

Relevant sustainability tools

Mitigation Tools

Adaptation Tools