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'Bridging’ human needs and carbon dioxide emissions reduction : the infrastructure dynamics at the core of the climate-development interplay

Abstract : Human development and climate change mitigation are related, and infrastructure - buildings and engineered constructions - is essential to jointly achieve these objectives. Infrastructure provide services that meet societal needs, but this provision is currently insufficient and CO2 emissions intensive in the use and construction. However, infrastructure dynamics is subject to technical, economic and institutional constraints. In this thesis, I investigate how the evolution of global infrastructure stocks can reconcile development needs with CO2 emissions reduction. I focus on three points of tension: (i) carbon lock-in - the inertia on future emissions reduction - induced by short-term development, (ii) limited financing for investment, and (iii) the carbon space for sufficient basic infrastructure development. This thesis makes a contribution by highlighting some of the conditions that need to be met if infrastructure is not to limit the feasibility of climate-development reconciliation.In the first chapter, I systematic review the literature on infrastructure-induced carbon lock-in. I use a supervised machine learning approach to select relevant articles. I synthesize according to sectors and geographical areas the existing quantifications of carbon lock-in, the indicators used to measure it and qualitative statements mentioning policy implications to get out of it. I show that coal-fired power plants contribute significantly to global carbon lock-in and are exposed to the risk of stranded assets due to early retirement. The sectoral distribution and amount of stranded assets differ between countries, with significant amounts for buildings sector in developed countries. Stranded assets are reduced if climate policies are implemented quickly. There is a need to ensure the legitimacy and long-term stability of these policies and coordination between infrastructure sectors. Carbon pricing should not be the only instrument used and should be complemented by regulation and financial support for the deployment of low-carbon capital.In the second chapter, I quantify the investment needs in transportation infrastructures in relation to different levels of climate ambitions. I build socio-economic scenarios with an integrated assessment model that explicitly represents the transport sector. I develop a module to quantify investment needs in line with future mobility trends. I apply a global sensitivity analysis to identify the determinants of investment needs. I show that investment needs decrease with increasing climate ambition but represent significant amounts compared to historical levels and needs in other sectors. Rail utilization level and road building costs are determining factors and could be levers to be activated to promote low-carbon pathways with reduced costs.In the third chapter, I assess whether a high level of access to five essential services - electricity, water, shelter, sanitation and transport - can be provided globally without compromising climate mitigation goals. I quantify in each country the needs for cement and steel based on historical trends. I then estimate the CO2 emissions associated with the manufacture of these materials by taking into account influencing factors such as production technologies, international trade patterns and mitigation actions in these industries. I show that providing high access to sanitation and transport can conflict with the existing low-carbon trajectories. These results suggest the need to limit the use of cement and steel and for further efforts to reduce emissions in developed countries.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 28, 2021 - 6:03:11 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 2:38:11 PM
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Vivien Fisch-Romito. 'Bridging’ human needs and carbon dioxide emissions reduction : the infrastructure dynamics at the core of the climate-development interplay. Economics and Finance. École des Ponts ParisTech, 2021. English. ⟨NNT : 2021ENPC0003⟩. ⟨tel-03272994⟩



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