31 July 2020

Preparing for a crisis: How to build climate resilience in emerging economies

Written by Sarah Duff, Associate, Climate Resilience Investments, EBRD
Developed by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
31 July 2020

In recent weeks, we most often think about resilience in relation to our own personal coping mechanisms and how to be better prepared for a crisis. If you knew that COVID-19 was going to happen, what would you have done differently to prepare? Health professionals may have understood the risks, but few of us would have been thinking about how we would cope in the event of a pandemic and the impact it would have on our lives. With climate change, we already have the foresight to know the impact it will have on the world and the projects that we invest in as a Multilateral Development Bank.

The key question therefore is what does resilience to climate change look like and how can we support countries in coping with climate risks?

Countries in every region of the world will see the effects of climate change. Changes in average temperatures, water availability, and the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events will be a reality. The EBRD region has some of the world’s most water-stressed countries, such as Jordan and Uzbekistan. The region also includes countries experiencing rapid change to their hydrological resources, such as melting glaciers in mountainous countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Meanwhile, more frequent and severe extreme weather events such as floods and landslides are happening across the entire region.

These climate impacts will have big consequences for infrastructure. Critical infrastructure systems (including energy, water, transport and communications networks) are essential for developing well-functioning societies and robust economies. Countries need reliable power supplies, the continued provision of water, and transport and connectivity that bring together people and markets. In emerging economies, there is an enormous need for investment in the rehabilitation and expansion of infrastructure networks, to better support economic growth and improve living standards for people. Yet many emerging economies, including those in the EBRD region, are highly exposed to climate change impacts. Floods and landslides can destroy roads and rail lines. Heatwaves can cause blackouts to happen more commonly. Whilst decreasing water resources may lead to a need for countries to look for alternative solutions such as desalination.

This means that there is an urgent need for a concerted effort to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, as emerging economies expand and renew their critical infrastructure systems. 

As these infrastructure assets will be in place for decades if not centuries, now is the time to ensure that they are planned, designed, built and operated to cope with climate change.

What can we do to kick-start this concerted effort, and develop cooperation between countries, international partners and the EBRD?

To answer this question, EBRD met virtually with leading international experts from organisations such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Global Infrastructure Hub, the UK National Infrastructure Commission, the Global Center on Adaptation as well as the Coalition on Climate Resilient Investment led by Willis Towers Watson. Leading financial institutions and national authorities from across our regions also joined us in this webinar to share expertise and advance the thinking on Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Systems in Emerging Economies. National experts from Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic and Georgia shared experiences from their countries, which gave great insight into the challenges faced.

The discussion really highlighted the opportunities of thinking beyond individual projects; understanding how the wider system works will allow us to identify the key climate risks, and to prioritise the right investments to address them. One of the key outcomes of the discussion was the initiative to establish a co-operation platform for developing this systems-based approach. 

The EBRD is at the forefront of this agenda and the diversity of experience within this virtual group creates a fantastic base to share and build upon. The next step will be to engage with our region and put these plans into practice.

For an overview of the event follow this link

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