A policy brief released by the Observer Research Foundation, an independent research and policy think tank based in India, aims to offer policy recommendations to the G20 leaders regarding the need to build resilience on critical infrastructure against climate change impacts.
The Policy Brief, “Mainstreaming Climate Resilience in Urban Infrastructure Planning,” published in July 2023, highlights the infrastructure vulnerability in urban areas to extreme weather events that are increasingly disrupting critical systems, escalating operating costs and funding gaps, and having other adverse spill-over effects on societies and economies across the world.
The brief asserts that leaders of the G20 or the Group of Twenty countries consisting of the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US are in the position to provide a roadmap for mainstreaming resilience into urban infrastructure development and planning.
The G20 countries account for 85% of the world’s economy, more than 75% of the world trade and contain two-thirds of the global population.
On 9 September 2023, members of the G20 convened at the group’s annual leaders’ summit, which was hosted in Delhi, India, this time. Every year, a different G20 member country takes on the president’s role and sets the summit’s agenda. Since its founding in 1999 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis and with economic restoration as its main agenda, it has broadened its focus in recent years to include global issues like climate change and sustainable energy.
The T20 brief presents the challenge faced by the critical infrastructure in urban areas due to rapid population growth. Disruption and failure of any critical infrastructure due to extreme events and natural hazards could be catastrophic, particularly in cities in developing countries struggling with other issues like substandard housing, poverty, inequality, inadequate infrastructure, and low adaptive capacity, making them slower to recover after disasters.
The 2019 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report notes that the increasing economic losses are the added vulnerability and exposure of critical infrastructure being developed without understanding the full risk. Infrastructure identified as vulnerable to multiple hazards are energy power plants (28%), fibre-optic cables (34%), road infrastructure (42%), airports (32%), and ports (13%).
As climate change impacts are projected to increase in frequency and severity, poor urban planning that does not integrate climate change risks could further increase the vulnerability and exposure of urban areas to extreme events and natural disasters.
For example, in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia’s third most vulnerable country, greater evaporation losses and glacial melting due to climate change could lead to an acute energy crisis.
Even among the G20 countries, four countries – India, Indonesia, Mexico, and China- are in the top 10 most vulnerable nations. However, the urban planning model of these countries remains focused on engineering or hard infrastructure solutions rather than a comprehensive and transformation approach that addresses long-term resilience.
The need to address the increasing climate extremes and the current urban planning model creates a climate adaptation gap. Bridging the gap calls for action from the G20 leaders.
“In particular, the G20 can facilitate (a) risk-informed infrastructure development, (b) strengthening of risk governance, (c) integration of nature-based solutions into infrastructure development, and (d) regional and sub-regional actions for risk-informed infrastructure through the G20 platform” (Mainstreaming Climate Resilience, 2023).
Mainstreaming Climate Resilience in Urban Infrastructure Planning (2023 July). T20 Policy Brief. Retrieved from https://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/T20_PolicyBrief_TF3_Climate-Resilient-UrbanInfrastructure.pdf
What is the G20 and what was achieved at the Delhi summit? (2023, September 11). BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-48776664