COP23 side event Climate Resilient Coastal Infrastructure Investments

Published: 9 November 2017

Climate resilient coastal infrastructure is a relative new topic for investment banks, which often look at shorter timespans for their investments than the time-scale of climate change. This symposium aimed at identifying the challenges and opportunities for infrastructure investments by bringing together experts from economic, financial, social, climate and engineering sciences as well as representatives of affected states such as Fiji, Bangladesh and the Caribbean.

Experts Wiebe de Boer and Martijn de Jong were at the “International Symposium on Climate Resilient Coastal Infrastructure Investments: Challenges and Opportunities”. The event was organized by the German development bank KfW as a side event to the COP23 Climate Change Conference in Bonn.

Wiebe de Boer (middle) on the expert panel climate resilient infrastructure

The morning session focused on the expected global impacts of sea level rise and extreme events for coastal zones. Climate experts showed that in a “do-nothing-scenario” the worldwide impacts of sea level rise will be disastrous and the associated cost run into billions of dollars per year. However, people will adapt and since sea level rise is slow, there is time to adapt. The estimated costs for coastal protection are orders of magnitudes lower than the prevented damage that can be achieved with protection.

In the afternoon De Boer participated in an expert panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for climate resilient infrastructure. He was asked to reflect on the Dutch perspective on coastal protection as well as possible solutions elsewhere in the world. The experts agreed that the technology for coastal protection is widely available, but there is not a “one-size-fits-all solution”.

Soft solutions preferred

Generally, soft solutions such as nourishments and mangrove restoration are preferred over hard solutions, not only for their adaptive capacity but also for their ability to generate co-benefits and co-finance. Nevertheless, at some locations hard or hybrid solutions may be required or even managed retreat. A stakeholder-inclusive approach is advocated to make fit-for-purpose adaptation and capacity building plans. Also possibilities to cover climate change risks by insurances were discussed by experts from insurance companies and the World Bank.

Major challenge is equity

One of the major challenges is equity: both the effects of climate change as well as the resources for adaptation are not equally distributed over the world. Therefore, it is hard to get the finance for coastal protection in place at the most vulnerable locations. The attendees agreed that a follow-up of this symposium would be valuable to discuss these challenges and solutions in both developed and developing countries in more detail.