EU creates checklist for ‘climate proof’ infrastructure projects

File photo. Demonstrators protest against the G20 Ministerial meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy, in Naples, southern Italy, 22 July 2021. [EPA-EFE/CESARE ABBATE]

The European Commission on Thursday (29 July) published a guide to assess whether planned infrastructure projects are equipped to cope with climate change impacts like floods and heatwaves, a condition that must be met to receive certain EU funds.

The catastrophic floods that hit northwest Europe this month have heightened concerns that even in some of the world’s richest countries, infrastructure is ill-prepared to cope with climate change as once-rare weather events become more common.

Developers seeking cash from some EU funds are required to ensure projects like roads, railways and power plants in the 27-member bloc can cope with extreme weather events.

Some level of this so-called “climate proofing” is required to access money including the €17.5 billion “just transition fund” to help fossil fuel-dependent regions become greener.

In its guide, the EU’s executive Commission said developers should assess what climate-related risks their project may face in the coming years based on data that could include national or regional climate change projections, or the long-awaited update of a UN climate science report expected in August.

If significant risks are identified, the developer should redesign the project to manage and reduce them, the Commission said. That could involve changing the design of physical assets to cope with high temperatures or creating emergency response systems for floods.

The assessment should also calculate the project’s expected greenhouse gas emissions to see if it is compatible with EU climate goals, including the bloc’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The EU’s aim is to ensure bridges, railways and power stations built today can withstand the impacts of a hotter planet – and avoid locking in decades of emissions that would thwart climate change goals.

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