A little less conversation, a little more action - GI Hub’s take on NYC Climate Week
Last month, Climate Week NYC brought together leaders in climate action from business, government, and the climate community. The 2022 theme of Climate Week was ‘getting it done’, with participants challenged to stop talking about the climate problem and expedite climate solutions. The GI Hub’s Director of Engagement, Rory Linehan and Partnership Manager, Daniel Galle, recently attended this year’s NYC Climate Week and have shared their five key infrastructure takeaways.
Technology is increasingly being deployed to solve climate challenges
ClimateTech (technologies that we use to address climate change) is the new kid on the block in the venture capital world. The topic of ClimateTech was featured in countless conversations, from panel sessions to keynote addresses. There was no escaping the importance of technology in helping us ‘getting it done’.
US President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act features US$369 billion in climate provisions that is targeted toward renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure. This, in turn, has resulted in a flood of new investment activity ranging from battery manufacturing, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and green hydrogen production.
The technology sector is thinking outside the box in response to new threats from climate change and how ClimateTech can better set us up for success and resilience. It’s increasingly clear that ClimateTech will play a huge role in enabling the resilient and sustainable infrastructure of the future. GI Hub has a collection of use cases demonstrating the application of ClimateTech for infrastructure, with analysis of the sectors and technologies represented.
Partnerships to meet net zero
The urgent need for bold, creative, and collaborative partnerships was a common theme and came across most strongly during conversations on Africa. Not only the need for partnerships between the public and private sectors, but among neighbouring countries. Panellists shared how African countries are increasingly looking to each other to address the challenges posed by climate change and the lack of infrastructure development. Cross-border infrastructure investment has grown across the continent, led by investments in ports and railways and leading to growth and development. According to the African Development Bank, Africa is facing a USD108 billion annual gap for climate finance, and African countries are some of the most affected by climate change. Panellists and participants alike urged investors to forge strong relationships with local organisations that can assist with the issues of risk, predictability, and local laws while developing long-term partnerships for continued growth.
Amy Hepburn, CEO, Investor Leadership Network, emphasised the importance of collaboration during a panel appearance at the Sustainable Investment Forum: “My main takeaway from Climate Week was that the private sector no longer has to be convinced of the risks and opportunities that lie within the transition to a sustainable global economy. They are primed and ready to make the change happen. Now our work is cut out for us to harness this momentum and deliver on the creativity, collaboration, and cooperation needed to ensure a swift and just transition.”
You can’t change what you don’t measure – more data is needed
Data to support environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment has made huge strides in recent years. Climate Week panellists and participants highlighted several examples of how environmental risk had been ‘baked into’ infrastructure investment underpinned by new data - the SDI Owner Asset Platform is one such example. To explore the relationship between infrastructure, economic, environmental, and social factors, the GI Hub has created its own data tool, InfraTracker.
However, during event discussions there was broad consensus that work is needed for data to support social and governance investment. At a roundtable on gender lens investment in infrastructure, Micheline Ntiru, Senior Advisor, Convergence, emphasised that we don’t understand what we don’t measure. She shared an example of how a lack of consideration for women on a new pedestrian roadway in Africa resulted in infrastructure without safe and adequate lighting. Therefore, the new infrastructure had minimal patronage from women and failed to achieve its usage targets. The call for more and better data to support social and governance investment decisions was heard loud and clear throughout Climate Week.
Change is the new normal
The global challenges expressed at NYC Climate Week, which took place on the margins of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, were echoed by António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN. Guterres warned in his opening remarks at the UN General Assembly, “All countries – with the G20 leading the way – must boost their national emissions reduction [targets] and must limit the world’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees…The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great peril.”
The urgent need to expedite the development of inclusive, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure to facilitate and adapt to change was a common theme throughout discussions at Climate Week. These changes are expected to accelerate over the coming years, as mentioned during our meeting with Ibrahim Odeh, Founding Director, Global Leaders in Construction Management, Columbia University and member of our Academic Advisory Panel: “For the last more than two decades, we have been witnessing rapid and constant changes. All these changes are not fading away anytime soon. We need to focus on developing and designing adaptive cities that can respond to the new normal of change and disruptions.”
New York is back, but not as you knew it
New York is shaking off its pandemic cobwebs and is roaring back to life. We experienced the signs of a city struggling to keep up with the sheer number of people in its environs: from busy sidewalks to heavy traffic delays and challenges finding a hotel room. On every street corner, in every meeting and conference, we felt the electricity of a city buzzing with people, fresh ideas, and a renewed vigour. Despite, or perhaps because of, the many challenges it faces, New York is getting it done when it comes to infrastructure. La Guardia Airport, once described by the US President Joe Biden as being third-world has now been transformed through a USD8 billion project, the first new major airport built in the US for decades. The city is also considering a $23 fee for vehicles to enter Manhattan to alleviate congestion and environmental concerns. What happens in New York matters globally. Cities buckling under environmental, social, and economic challenges can once again look to New York as an exemplar of how to address some of city’s most pressing problems.
NYC Climate Week was an excellent opportunity for us to connect with organisations looking to deliver solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The GI Hub is leading several climate- related infrastructure initiatives, including the recently endorsed G20/GI Hub Framework on How to Best Leverage Private Sector Participation to Scale Up Sustainable Infrastructure Investment and our work on Advancing Circular Infrastructure – just to name a few.