The key to success for infrastructure projects – Climate proofing

Climate proofing (CP) is a process, in which climate change mitigation and adaptation measures are integrated into the development of infrastructure projects. In September 2021, with the implementation of the European Commission’s technical guidance on the climate proofing of infrastructure in the period 2021-2027 (2021/C 373/01), it was determined that Climate Proofing should be an integral part of all infrastructure projects receiving European Union (EU) funds. Current EU funds are: InvestEU, Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Cohesion Fund (CF) and Just Transition Fund (JTF).

Climate proofing will play an increasingly important role in investment decisions. First of all, it will be and already is necessary in the application for European Union funds. Secondly, the absence of the Climate proofing or the quality of this assessment will influence bank decisions on loans, acquisition of investments from potential investors andcompany’s prestige from the consumers’ point of view and affect the company’s place in the environmental, social and governance ratings. Thus, Climate Proofing is not only optionally included in the legislation of the European Commission and serves as a mechanism for achieving the Green Deal goals, but can work as an effective tool for business growth and successful development.

In Latvia, guidelines for the successful implementation of Climate Proofing are in the development stage. However, in Europe their implementation has already become an integral part of construction and other infrastructure projects.

The main goal of Climate Proofing is to make infrastructure projects safer and more resilient to climate change, while respecting the principles of «Energy Efficiency First» and «Do Not Significant Harm», as well as ensuring that the level of greenhouse emissions generated during the projects meets the 2050 climate neutrality goals.

Infrastructure in this context includes:

  • Buildings,
  • Nature-based infrastructures,
  • Network infrastructure,
  • Transport infrastructure,
  • Waste management systems,
  • Other physical assets (communications, emergency services, energy, finance, food, government, health, education and training, research, civil protection),
  • Other eligible types of infrastructure (cultural heritage, tourism).

Most infrastructure objects have a long service life. The infrastructure we operate today may have been built decades, even hundreds of years ago and the infrastructure we will build in the period 2021-2027 will be actively used in the second half of this century and maybe even longer. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts in their report, climate change extremes will become more frequent and with far more devastating consequences. Because of that it is fundamental to invest in the infrastructure that is climate-neutral and climate-resilient – firstly, to ensure low carbon emissions and secondly, to adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change.  Climate proofing is one of the powerful tools that will ensure investment directly in climate-neutral and climate-resilient infrastructure facilities at the level of the European Union.

One of the goals set in the legislation of the European Union is to assign 30% of the Union’s total budget to the achievement of climate goals. Already in 2023, financing from the EU funds and Recovery Funds in the amount of 1.3 billion euros is available to promote the transformation of Latvia’s economy and the well-beings of the population. Additionally, staring from 2021 and to 2027, the EU Cohesion Policy Program in Latvia, approved by the European Commission, will receive 4.3 billion euros from EU funds to Latvia. Despite the possibilities of ambitious financing, the use of funds in Latvia is slow – until the end of 2022, only 75% of the total amount of EU funds allocated to Latvia has been used. Vides Eksperti encourage entrepreneurs to not miss the opportunities offered by EU funds.

In the technical guidance for Climate proofing (2021/C 373/01), the Climate proofing process is divided into two pillars – climate neutrality and climate resilience, and into two phases – screening and detailed analysis.

In any project the first phase of both pillars of Climate proofing is screening. In turn, the necessity to perform the second phase – detailed analysis – is determined by the outcome of the screening phase. A structural outline of the Climate proofing process is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Structure diagram of the Climate proofing process of infrastructure projects

Screening phase of the climate neutrality assessment is a check to determine if the project requires a carbon footprint assessment. In case if the carbon footprint assessment is applied, a detailed analysis must be carried out – calculation of greenhouse gases (tCO2 eq.) and cost assessment (EUR/tCO2 eq.), as well as an assessment of compliance with climate policy goals for 2030 and 2050.

In the screening phase of the climate resilience assessment, potential climate risks must be identified by performing a sensitivity, exposure and vulnerability analysis. If significant climate risks are identified in stage 1, a detailed analysis should be applied in which risk assessment is carried out, including probability and impact analysis and identification of climate adaptation measures.

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