Promoted as a “magic bullet” that will lift our economies out of the economic crisis, infrastructure megaprojects are taking a more and more prominent role in the global development model.

Governments and development banks financing dams, motorways, oil and gas pipelines are more committed than ever to filling in the supposed “infrastructure gap”. And the larger the project, the better. Scaling up investments “from billions to trillions”, mega projects are meant to boost global economic growth and help recovery. But what are the risks entailed?

We will tackle this question through a series of papers published this week. We analysed the new global infrastructure agenda and its implications from three different angles: its climate impacts, its risks for public debts and the key role played by Multilateral Development Banks in promoting this agenda.

Here's the first of our papers.

In 2015, there has been a high level of media focus on climate change issues: the December UN Climate Change Conference in Paris has drawn attention especially from those seeking to avoid the poor outcomes and fiasco of the Copenhagen 2009 Conference. In addition, the challenge of climate change features prominently in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals approved by Heads of States at the United Nations Summit in September.

In both processes, governments and the financial institutions they control, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, announced their willingness to contribute heavily to climate change mitigation and adaptation via targeted investments to support climate friendly projects throughout the world.

But in parallel, those institutions appear increasingly committed to large-scale infrastructure projects of dubious environmental and social sustainability and are supporting a massive wave of high carbon megaprojects.

In this context, this paper offers a critical perspective on the global infrastructure agenda and some of the risks it entails:

  • It perpetuates an extractivist and carbon intensive approach to infrastructure;
  • It comes in contradiction to decarbonisation targets or attempts to tackle climate change on a global scale and is likely to lock-in the world on an unsustainable path.
2016 Factsheet Infrastructure Climate title page

Factsheet Infrastructure