A few days ago, Hurricane Harvey left catastrophic wreckage in its pass through the United States, particularly in Texas and Louisiana. The floods that came as a result of the tropical cyclone inundated homes, destroyed schools and displaced thousands of people.
This week, Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history with winds of 185mph, is striking the Caribbean, causing immeasurable destruction in islands such as St. Martin and Barbuda and threatening to cause devastation in Florida. Right behind Irma, Hurricanes Katia and Jose are gaining strength, one headed towards Mexico and the other potentially hitting the same islands as Irma.
All these extreme weather events are a reminder of the need to prepare our cities for natural disasters by investing in infrastructure that is climate-resilient and sustainable. This means making sure that it will have:
- Lower probabilities of failure
- Less severe negative consequences when failures occur
- Faster recovery from failures
Our societies are heavily dependent on properly functioning infrastructure systems to carry out our daily activities. It is core to our quality of life, to achieving better growth and to ensuring sustainable development. Unfortunately, infrastructure in the region remains highly vulnerable. As investment in infrastructure increases to satisfy the growing demand, investors should focus their efforts on projects that are designed taking into account the impact of climate events during their life span. The recent hurricanes have shown that this is crucial because:
- Infrastructure failure is often a primary cause of economic and human losses in disasters.
- Our infrastructure is interdependent. For example, loss of electric power can lead to disruptions in water, transportation and health care systems. Damaged roads can hinder the relocation of people to safer areas or the timely distribution of emergency relief.
- Infrastructure that can endure disasters will reduce its negative environmental impact, such as debris from damaged structures, spills of hazardous materials and other contaminants, and the carbon footprint of reconstruction activities.
- Investing in sustainable infrastructure is crucial to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and avoid the intensification of extreme weather events caused by climate change.
The time is ripe to invest in sustainable infrastructure. The decisions that we make now will greatly impact our future due to a lock-in of capital and technology. Through our NDC Invest platform, the IDB is helping countries in the region to create investment plans that take into consideration the importance of building more resilient and sustainable cities. We are also providing additional resources that are often needed —particularly for infrastructure— to accelerate the preparation and execution of their projects.
Want to learn more about sustainable infrastructure? Watch the recording of our Facebook Live on the topic, with experts Amal-Lee Amin and Graham Watkins.