Mike Haigh: “Infrastructure must redefine value”

Mike Haigh against a grey background

As sustainability reshapes infrastructure from all directions, we talk with Mott MacDonald group executive chair, Mike Haigh (MH) about how industry can respond right. 

IG: Green finance is rapidly growing and the political ambitions set out at COP26 make sustainability integral to infrastructure. How is all of that reshaping the infrastructure sector?

MH: “The infrastructure sector needs to look at how we define value; it should not be just in terms of finance but also placing value in health, the environment and biodiversity as we create cleaner, greener, healthier places for communities to live and work.”

“The latest 6th IPCC impact report references the need for green finance. It reinforces the cost of climate change and states that if we delay, the costs will increase significantly.”

“The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) requirement for disclosure will force companies to manage their risks in a different way, helping the move towards altogether more sustainable business models.”

“The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, which we are a partner of, has created the PCRAM framework and methodology that creates a mechanism to draw in investment in different ways in order to be able to address the climate emergency.”

“In the UK we also have the CCC 6th carbon budget that states that overall the cost of addressing the climate emergency is going to cost less than 1% of our UK GDP.”

“The cause for optimism lies with the fact that our client organisations are more receptive” Mike haigh

IG: So, what are our causes for optimism that this, along with growing public demand for sustainability, will make infrastructure genuinely sustainable at every phase of its delivery and lifecycle?

MH: “The cause for optimism lies with the fact that our client organisations are more receptive to considering sustainability and net zero.”

“We’ve put the UN SDGs at the core of our company and projects. This helps facilitate conversations about the added value that can be unlocked by consideration of these important topics. We are also proud to be part of a community of professionals from multiple sectors that are very well placed to help society address the impacts of climate emergency.”

“The IPCC report references where adaptation measures have been implemented that are considered to be making matters worse” Mike haigh

IG: Sustainability is an extremely diverse term. How important is it to take a wider view of how infrastructure impacts the environment, communities and individuals?

MH: “A comprehensive and whole life, systems approach is essential. In providing infrastructure we must plan for the long term and be cognisant of how the sectors must work together in a more efficient and effective way. The assets we build today will be in place for the next 50 to 100 years, so they are already locking in CO2e.”

“Also, how we consider adaptation and retrofit building and infrastructure that already exists, has to be done in a thoughtful and joined up way. The IPCC report references where adaptation measures have been implemented that are considered to be making matters worse, so thoughtful design and intervention, plus driving innovation to make the step change we need, will be central.”

“Our focus on cities can help address this as we consider systems-led approaches to make them more climate resilient. The IPCC report says coastal cities and settlements play a key role in moving toward higher climate resilient development, given almost 11% of the global population – 896 million people – lived within the Low Elevation Coastal Zone in 2020, potentially increasing to beyond 1 billion people by 2050.”

“So, the consideration of nature-based­ solutions and creating buffer zones of protection using mangrove forests, salt marsh will be part of the solution.”