Infrastructure

USAID infrastructure investments range from small-scale projects, such as community water tanks, to large power plants and water treatment facilities. USAID also makes direct infrastructure investments in schools, hospitals, health clinics, and other public buildings, as well as rural farm-to-market roads, trunk roads, and bridges.

Almost every aspect of these investments can have a climate impact. The design, materials, and methods of construction of a project can help mitigate some of the environmental impact, but site selection can be even more important. It is expected that within the next fifty years more than 70 percent of people will live in urban areas and a significant number of those will be located near coastal zones. The most vulnerable of these, over a billion people, will be living in informal settlements. Urbanization always brings increased economic development but with that usually comes an increase in resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Adapting infrastructure systems to meet the twin challenges of sustainability and climate variability requires engaging professional architects, engineers, and construction professionals in holistic and systemic infrastructure planning and design. Green infrastructure, sustainable construction, and equitable land policies are just a few of the ways that development professionals can promote infrastructure that is both sustainable and climate-resilient.

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In November 2020, two back-to-back category 4 hurricanes, Eta and Iota, struck Central America, making landfall on the coast of Nicaragua, near its border with Honduras, and also affecting El Salvador and Guatemala. Altogether, they caused an estimated one billion US dollars in damage. Despite such impacts, the region was better able to prepare for and respond to Eta and Iota using space-based technologies.
In July, Climatelinks explored the important health and climate impacts of air pollution. As the world’s largest environmental health risk, air pollution contributes to approximately 6.7 million premature deaths each year. This is a significant development challenge, as low and middle income countries are at the highest risk for the greatest health burdens from poor air quality.
Across the globe, people are struggling to improve air quality, but the sources of pollution that cause the most harm are a moving target. They can differ by location, time of year, and time of day.