Explained: How IRIS and CDRI are working to strengthen critical infrastructure against climate change


On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his British counterpart Boris Johnson and a few other world leaders, launch a new program to secure and strengthen critical infrastructure in small island states against disasters induced by climate change. Called IRIS or Infrastructure for Resilient Island States, this program is the first major work of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure that India initiated in 2019.

CDRI – Climate protection infrastructure

The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) deals with critical climate resilient infrastructure in member countries. To date, 26 countries, including the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Japan, are members of the coalition.

The coalition is meant to serve as a “knowledge hub” where member countries can share and learn best practices in disaster-proof infrastructure projects. The coalition will not create any new infrastructure but will instead strive to make existing and future infrastructure in member countries more robust and resilient so that they can withstand climatic disasters such as floods, heat waves, cyclones, forest fires, rains and the like. .

According to CDRI estimates, every dollar invested to make infrastructure more resilient in low- and middle-income countries can potentially save more than four dollars in disaster losses.

Increase in extreme weather events

It is increasingly recognized that despite the measures taken by countries to combat climate change, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and disasters are only expected to increase. Countries already experience and face more intense floods, heat waves and forest fires every year.

For example, the eastern coast of India, especially along Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, experiences stronger and more frequent cyclones each year. Thanks to significant progress in the warning and monitoring of these cyclones and the rapid evacuation of people, the loss of life due to these events has been considerably reduced over the years. But the threat to infrastructure remained. Power plants stop functioning, communication towers are damaged, streetlights are uprooted, rail and air operations have to be interrupted due to flooding. These have cascading effects on several other activities. The monetary costs of damage and disruption run into the billions of dollars each year.

The goal of CDRI is to minimize this damage and disruption.

ISA – Harnessing Solar Energy

The CDRI is the second international climate initiative launched by India. The first was the International Solar Alliance (ISA) launched at the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015. The main objective of the ISA is to promote the large-scale exploitation and exploitation of energy. solar. The equatorial and tropical regions of the earth enjoy very good sunshine for most of the year, which is sufficient to meet the energy needs of many countries in this belt. Unfortunately, the deployment of solar energy in these areas is very less. The ISA is working to change this, primarily by reducing the technological and financial costs that can facilitate the rapid and massive deployment of solar energy. It hopes to do so by aggregating demand from a large number of countries, standardizing equipment and networks, and promoting research and development.

Advancing this dream is the recent ambitious idea of ​​One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) which offers a common grid across more than 100 countries so that solar energy can be transferred from one country to another. This will stabilize the energy supply, overcome local and natural fluctuations in sunlight availability, and maintain reliable baseload capacities at all times.

The ISA and CDRI are both an attempt by India to claim leadership on climate change at the global level. Both initiatives received broad support, not only from developing countries but also from the developed world. While the solar alliance would lead to greenhouse gas mitigation through the large-scale shift from fossil fuels to solar power, simultaneously addressing issues of energy access and energy security, CDRI aims to adaptation objective. Together, they form India’s vision for global climate action that also takes into account issues of equity, development and the special needs of developing and least developed countries.

IRIS – Equipping island states

Just as OSOWOG forms a specific work program for achieving the goals of the solar alliance, the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) is an operationalization of the CDRI initiative.

Small island states are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Many of them risk being wiped out from the face of the earth. According to CDRI, several small island states have lost up to 9% of their GDP due to one-time disasters in recent years.

As CDRI Executive Board Co-Chair Kamal Kishore said, infrastructure in these small countries is more critical than elsewhere because they have so little. “A larger country has several airports, for example. So, if one or two are damaged in climatic disasters, the country can still run its business by diverting its operations elsewhere. But many small island states have only one airstrip. It’s their only connection to the rest of the world and the only supply line, ”he said.

It is not surprising that several small island states have joined the IRIS platform and are making plans to implement it. The main work would be to mobilize and direct financial resources towards building resilient infrastructure in these countries, modernizing existing infrastructure, developing early warning systems and developing and sharing best practices.

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