ICSI Reflections on COP28

After a whirlwind COP28, we are pleased to share our key takeaways from the conference and our activities over the past two weeks. The hard-won deal landed in Dubai signals a global shift towards a low-carbon energy system. In addition to transitioning away from fossil fuels, the final text also calls on parties to triple renewable energy capacity globally and double the rate of efficiency gains by the end of the decade. Additionally, on day one of the conference, parties reached a historic agreement to operationalise the loss and damage fund, which has already received commitments of over USD 700 million to date. While these are all encouraging developments, we will need the help of investors, consumers and national governments to enable implementation. Engineers will also play a key role here in advancing goals around renewables and energy efficiency.

ICSI was privileged to once again be involved with the Resilience Hub, where we co-led on the theme of Disaster Risk Management and Humanitarian Action, as well as contributing to other activities in the Hub and beyond. A constant theme throughout our engagements was the need to address challenges through a natural ecosystem lens – i.e., to prioritise and protect nature in our approach to climate challenges and to ensure that we integrate nature into our thinking to advance solutions that are sustainable, resilient and just for all.

A secondary prominent theme was the role of youth – particularly young engineers – in advocating and implementing the kind of infrastructure that will improve resilience outcomes. In several sessions, we heard from African representatives on the importance of engaging the youth on the continent and building their capacity for sustainable development.

It is more critical than ever to bring stakeholders together to collectively tackle climate challenges head-on. As we head into 2024, we are taking inspiration from Debra Roberts, IPCC Co-Chair WGII AR6, who said:

Despite the overwhelming evidence that we are not doing enough, there is still substantial resistance to talking about the possibility of living in a world where we temporarily overshoot 1.5°C. Common sense dictates that we should be thinking about the implications of living in a world where: changes in critical natural systems may be irreversible; we will have to deal with an increasing number of win-lose scenarios; and the poor and vulnerable will be exposed to an increasing range of risks and impacts. This world will require a new toolbox to help keep options on the table, business-as-usual will not cut it.

Through deepening cross-sectoral and cross-regional collaboration, ICSI endeavours to contribute to this toolbox and work towards solutions that enable us to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

See highlights from our COP28 activities below:

Engineering Action: Influencing the future of the built & natural environment

Recognising that engineers are critical to building just, resilient, inclusive & sustainable infrastructure, this session at the COP Resilience Hub explored how we can implement the UNDRR Principles for Resilient Infrastructure and showcase tangible examples of engineering-led transformative action. Co-hosted with WFEO Young Engineers/Future Leaders Working Group on Climate Action (YE/FL SDG13) and UNDRR, the event also highlighted the need for meaningful inclusion of early career engineers, particularly at the infrastructure policy and planning stages, building their capacity and equipping them with the right skills to effectively engage.

The session saw the launch of the #EngineeringChange campaign, a global initiative to empower young engineers to participate in sustainable development in their workplaces, communities, and networks. The campaign calls on engineering managers and organisations to identify sustainability skills gaps and systemically address them through the provision of adequate resources and senior management support. As part of this initiative, we undertook an international consultation of young engineers and engineering managers to understand the perceptions, barriers, and opportunities around implementing sustainable development practices in engineering work worldwide. We have now published a report that summarises the key findings of this consultation and lays out a path forward for the campaign.

Watch a recording of this session

Enabling Private Finance for Adaptation

Resilience First, in collaboration with Resilience Rising and The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions explored practical actions in this Implementation Lab to drive progress on the Sharm El-Sheik Adaptation Agenda, including nature-based solutions. This roundtable discussion invited participants to share their experience and insights on three key themes related to enabling private finance for adaptation: current strategies being adopted by the private sector for enhancing climate resilience; innovative financing approaches; and the role of cross-sectoral partnerships for scaling participation. Read key takeaways from the session here.

During this discussion, ICSI was pleased to announce the launch of a Position Paper highlighting and framing key aspects with significant potential to upscale and accelerate resilient infrastructure finance. The paper was developed in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) and was published as a contribution to Chapter 4 of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure’s (CDRI) Biennial Report of Global Infrastructure Resilience.

View the paper

Infrastructure Sustainability Learning (ISLe) Initiative

As infrastructure spending ramps up across the globe, one of the greatest barriers to building in a sustainable and resilient way is a lack of capacity among local government officials, engineers, developers, and financiers. To address this need, the founding partners of the Infrastructure Sustainability Learning (ISLe) Initiative – the Nicholas Institute, UNEP, and ICSI – are creating virtual communities of practice for sustainable infrastructure practitioners to learn from experts and from one another.

Launched at COP28, the ISLe Initiative engages stakeholders from across multiple disciplines in learning networks, using the case-based and problem-solving learning approaches developed by Project ECHO. Within an ISLe network, participants explore issues related to their own infrastructure projects in collaboration with other practitioners and sustainable infrastructure experts.

Read more

Ensuring Resilience in Renewable Energy Infrastructure

KPMG International and ICSI hosted a dialogue at the Renewable Energy Pavilion on the significance of resilience in renewable energy infrastructure and systems. Renewables have been identified as a critical part of the response to global warming with all recent reports (IPCC, IEA, IRENA) and political declarations (G20) calling for a threefold increase in renewables installation by 2030.

Experts at this session explored approaches and solutions to making renewables resilient and to ensuring systemic resilience as the penetration of renewables in the energy systems increases. The session was attended by representatives from CDRI, SSE, Octopus Energy and Aon.

Systems thinking for holistic climate action: nature-driven engineering, policy and finance solutions

This official UNFCCC Side Event, co-hosted by WFEO and the Engineering Leadership Group (ELG), aimed to foster transdisciplinary and systems thinking for inclusive, effective, nature-positive infrastructure and climate solutions in the context of the Global Stocktake. A range of built environment professionals, academics and sustainability experts came together to demonstrate examples of holistic climate action and showcase nature-driven engineering, policy and finance solutions. Tangible examples showcased how a systemic approach can be put in practice from the very early stages of project development, when considering nature-positive and nature-based approaches. ICSI launched the second issue of our Climate Resilient Infrastructure Report at this session.

Watch a recording of this session

From Reaction to Socio-Ecological Resilience: Advancing Disaster Risk Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Nexus for Climate Adaptation

Co-hosted by ICSI and the United Nations University – including the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) and the Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) – this session explored what socio-ecological resilience means to different stakeholders in the context of disaster risk reduction. It took a holistic approach to the concept of socio-ecological resilience by showcasing solutions across different contexts, scales and sectors.

The session highlighted the importance of an approach that accounts for different social and ecological vulnerabilities, assets, and opportunities, allowing for more pragmatic coping mechanisms in the event of shocks. This kind of systemic approach recognises that we are part of nature and embraces complexity, leading to more nuanced solutions. Collaboration between diverse stakeholders is crucial to a socio-ecological approach and should be fostered as a key mechanism to accelerate climate action. This event marked the start of a collaboration that will work towards building a community of practice on socio-ecological resilience in response to climate action.

Watch a recording of this session

In addition to the above sessions, ICSI was also proud to be represented at an array of events including a discussion on resilient and liveable cities at the Spain Pavilion, a session on blended finance for climate and nature at the AIIB Pavilion, a BCG panel on cross-sector collaboration in sustainable transport at the Green Zone Knowledge Hub Mainstage, and various engagements on the #RaceToResilience campaign with the High-Level Climate Champions team.

We look forward to applying the learnings from COP28 in our work going forward and using them to inform and advance the implementation of sustainable and resilient infrastructure in communities around the world.