How infrastructure affects climate change
Infrastructure contributes significantly to climate change, first in its operational emissions, and second in its embodied emissions through material usage.
Almost 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to infrastructure, according to the UN Environment Programme. It is widely understood that infrastructure must decarbonise to enable us to reach net zero, and that large-scale transformation across the infrastructure lifecycle is needed to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Infrastructure is also a major user of materials worldwide. GI Hub research found that infrastructure consumes 60% of the world’s materials. The extraction, processing, and use of these materials during construction and maintenance of infrastructure has a direct impact on the embodied carbon of infrastructure, which comprises around 18% of infrastructure’s CO2 emissions.
As the climate crisis continues escalating, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that temperatures will likely exceed the 1.5 C Paris Agreement target. Reducing infrastructure’s operational emissions and embodied emissions from material usage is therefore more urgent than ever.
See strategies for mitigating CO2 emissions through infrastructure