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Insurers warn that infrastructure investment gap leaves world ‘vulnerable’

Flood tewkesbury

A lack of sufficient infrastructure investment, coupled with an unstable geopolitical landscape and increasing impacts of climate change is leaving the world in a vulnerable state, experts have warned.  

Speaking at the launch of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report, John Drzik who is global and digital risk president at insurance broker Marsh said that a global $18 trillion (£13.9 trillion) gap in infrastructure investment left the world vulnerable to climate change and cyber-attack.   

“We need $97 trillion (£75 trillion) of investment by 2040, and only $79 trillion (£61 trillion) is expected to be made. We need 23% more investment each year in infrastructure than we are currently making,” he said.  

“That $18 trillion (£13.9 trillion) gap is making the world more vulnerable to the global risk landscape, whether that be extreme weather and climate risk, or cyber-attacks, these are amplified by weakened infrastructure.” 

Another insurer, Zurich group chief risk officer Alison Martin told the briefing that there was an urgent need to increase infrastructure resilience as  it is increasingly likely that the limits of the Paris Climate Accord will be broken.  

“It is increasingly unlikely that we will be able to meet the 2°C upper limit of the Paris Climate Agreement,” she said.  

“There is an urgent need to build resilience into our infrastructure, for human health and critical infrastructure protection. For example, urbanisation and poverty are putting more people at risk of damage and disruption from flooding, rather than relying on a hard engineering approach, we need a softer, more nature-based approach.”  

The WEF Global Risks Report also concludes that increasing geo-political instability is putting infrastructure at risk. Hitachi’s recent decision to suspend nuclear power projects is a prime example of this, Drzik told New Civil Engineer.  

“[Wylfa] is an example, while it may not be the only reason, one of the reasons behind the withdrawal was the uncertainly surrounding Brexit. The connection between the geopolitical environment and the uncertainties being created by different conflicts between states,” he said.  

“It was concerning – it is an example of seeing financing pulled from what otherwise could have been a productive project.” 

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