Paper Calls for “Unprecedented” Transformation of Infrastructure Systems to Achieve Climate, Development Objectives
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The paper highlights opportunities for improving upstream strategic planning to meet adaptation, mitigation and biodiversity goals and the SDGs, particularly in low-income countries.

It notes that focusing on low-carbon solutions has led to gaps in adaptation to existing climate impacts.

1 April 2019: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Government of Germany have published a paper highlighting the need to transform existing infrastructure systems to realize global climate and development objectives.

The paper titled, ‘Opportunities to Improve Infrastructure Planning for Social-ecological Resilience,’ acknowledges that global institutions critical to infrastructure finance and development have started working towards a shift to low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable investments to meet countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the SDGs.

While building sustainable infrastructure has, thus far, mostly focused on decarbonization, the paper argues that this has led to gaps in adaptation to existing climate impacts. The paper calls for greater attention to natural capital, ecosystem services and the benefits they provide to local communities and regional economies, particularly in building resilience. It notes that “resilience services” must be better integrated throughout the infrastructure development cycle, and mentions, as examples of such services, forests that stabilize hillsides, slow water flows or filter sediments under intense rainfall, and wetlands that absorb and diffuse flood waters.

“Resilience services” must be better integrated throughout the infrastructure development cycle.

The paper underscores the need for planning and designing for ecosystem services, particularly in adaptation, where nature-based solutions can help increase resilience for vulnerable populations, particularly in marginalized rural communities that lack options for more expensive, engineered adaptation solutions. It calls for increased understanding of the benefits of ecological or nature-based infrastructure, noting that it “must be” part of land-use planning processes.

The paper calls for holistic development planning and investing decisions based on:

  • all ecosystems services and the reliance on them;
  • current and future infrastructure needs based on these dependencies and other trends like population growth, migration and projected economic development; and
  • current impacts and likely future risks to ecosystem services and infrastructure from continued warming.

The paper contends that implementing an approach that ensures the above-mentioned components should be part of all planning processes.

Additionally, the publication highlights other opportunities for global institutions and governments to improve upstream strategic planning to meet larger adaptation, mitigation and biodiversity goals and the SDGs, particularly in low-income countries. Such opportunities include: creating funding sources to support more holistic, cross-sectoral landscape/regional-scale planning; testing and experimenting with holistic multi-stakeholder planning approaches on the ground to develop case studies to replicate and scale up; creating and expanding national-level investments in natural capital programmes; expanding and developing national regulatory frameworks that consider ecosystem services and climate risks in national policies, laws and regulations governing planning processes; developing standards through cross-sectoral collaboration; facilitating cross-sectoral collaboration and integration in planning processes via trainings in future thinking tools and approaches; and increasing investment in ecosystem service modeling science to improve the assessment and valuing of resilience services under multiple climate futures and economic development and population scenarios. [Publication: Opportunities to Improve Infrastructure Planning for Social-ecological Resilience]

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