Global infrastructure leaders convene for first time


Around 60 of the world’s infrastructure leaders, spanning engineering, technology, finance and owners, met today for the first full meeting of the new Global Leadership Forum.

The new Global Leadership Forum, which was launched in September last year by international engineering federation FIDIC, held its first meeting of members today, bringing together industry leaders from across five continents to discuss challenges from society change to sustainable development, and to set a plan of action for adapting infrastructure to meet those challenges.

Supporting investment in infrastructure

Amid global concerns about the infrastructure finance gap, one of the key topics of discussion was the growing economic value investors can derive from infrastructure.

The rise of ESG investment across the banking sector has coincided with a recognition that infrastructure will be integral to achieving environmental and social goals. On a risk-adjusted basis, ESG assets are now delivering a comparable return to other investments, but with a lower risk profile thanks to lower volatility. This represents a great opportunity to drive growth in ESG assets over time, which has big implications for infrastructure. 

Infrastructure assets have often outperformed other investments during periods of inflation, and with the green transition representing a major opportunity requiring at least $4.5tn annually until 2030, the case for investment seemed strong.

At the same time, however, the global leaders looked at how those who deliver infrastructure could do more to drive up investment opportunities. In particular, they looked at the need to provide bankable shovel-ready projects, establish global standards, and to support co-investment opportunities that ensure the right people are involved in the complex projects the world must deliver.

Climate change response

Climate change is making the need for infrastructure change all the more pressing as the world seeks to cope with the rising impact of severe weather instances. The forum heard that in 2021, flooding saw a single province in China lose almost $18bn of economic value, while flooding in Germany led to damage of more than $20bn. With the recognition that the world is now likely to exceed 1.5°C of global warming, that tipping point will further accelerate the extent of severe weather events and the need for infrastructure to adapt.

This could not be more crucial but many countries have limited fiscal space in the light of Covid and the war in Ukraine. So the forum was asked to consider other constraints, such as the lack of bankable projects and the lack of consistent ESG data around the world, as it sets about the research work it plans to conduct.

Work of the forum

The Global Leadership Forum has established four think tanks looking at four key issues across the infrastructure sector as a whole. These topics are: –

  • Industry recognition
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Market intelligence
  • Delivering tomorrow’s infrastructure

On industry recognition, the forum discussed the lack of global recognition of leaders and emerging talent throughout all of the diverse and inclusive sectors involved in infrastructure. This is something that will need to change as the industry seeks to engage with global organisations to better inform decision-making.

On sustainable development goals, the forum is examining the lines drawn between scope 1, 2 and 3 across the infrastructure sector for issues like net zero carbon reporting. It is also keen to undertake analysis of tools and criteria used around the world and identify individual projects that would serve as models for industry to learn from.

On market intelligence, the forum is looking at developing market sentiment surveys and specialist benchmarking insights across the industry, some of which is expected to be made public, to help inform global debate.

Finally, looking at tomorrow’s infrastructure, the forum recognised that the pandemic has shown that change can happen at speed. As a result, there is a need for industry to undertake scenario planning about how a changing global market and decarbonisation will transform the demands on infrastructure and on those who deliver it.