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Climate change threat is prompting infrastructure investment in cities, says report

Out-Law News | 15 Jul 2014 | 5:21 pm | 2 min. read

Many of the world’s major cities are increasing investment in infrastructure projects to tackle a “real and current threat” to businesses from climate change, according to a new report.

The report, 'Protecting our capital' (28-page / 1.25 MB PDF), said that while most cities believe rising global temperatures “will lead to negative economic impacts”, 79% of cities recognise that “climate change creates new economic opportunities as well”.

The research suggests that the economic boost major cities could gain from upgrading public transport infrastructure alone could be around $800 billion each year, “due to productivity gains and the development of new economic activities”, the report said.

According to the report, an estimated $4 trillion worth of assets is estimated to be at risk as a result of climate change. However, the report said cities, which “generate more than 80% of global gross domestic product (GDP)”, are seizing new opportunities to “invest in the resilience of energy, water and communication networks (that) can have economic payback for cities and businesses alike”.

The report was compiled by international not-for-profit organisation CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, international infrastructure and support services firm AECOM and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which is a network of the world’s ‘megacities’ working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks.

More than 200 cities including Johannesburg, London, New York, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Tokyo, gave details of their infrastructure investment and related strategies to sustain economic resilience in the light of the impact of climate change.

Such cities are “on the frontline of climate change”, the economic ramifications of which are “moving cities to invest in infrastructure to protect businesses”, CDP said.

Examples cited by the report include that of energy provider CLP Holdings in Hong Kong, which CDP said “has suffered site damage and business interruption as a result of rising sea level”. According to the report, CLP “has spent $193,000 raising building floor levels and has invested a further $516,000 to increase drainage capacity”.

In another example, CDP said the Hong Kong Drainage Services Department had put $2.7bn towards flood defence infrastructure, “including river widening and underground water storage”.

In London, CDP said Morgan Stanley had spent $4.4 million upgrading air-conditioning at its data centre. “London is using its planning system to drive greater energy and cooling efficiency, ensuring property managers and developers contribute to a more climate resilient city,” CDP said.

Head of CDP’s cities programme Larissa Bulla said: “Through the provision of information, policies and incentives, cities can help equip businesses to manage these risks and embrace the opportunities.”

AECOM’s chief sustainability officer Gary Lawrence said three quarters of cities that took part in CDP’s cities programme this year “identified substantial benefits that flow to both public and private economies from climate adaptation initiatives”. Lawrence said: “These benefits can be amplified through closer collaborations and sharing of knowledge and technical resources.”

A 2013 report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) (103-page / 4.50 MB PDF) said countries in the Pacific region will require “substantial increases in investment”, supported by “financial and technical support from the international community”, for a range of ‘climate resilient’ projects including transport, energy and water infrastructure.