Adaptive Critical Infrastructure

How critical infrastructure is defined influences climate change adaptation outcomes.

PRESENTED BY: Pippa Huddleson

Critical infrastructure is a key component of a functional society - contributing to the health, wellbeing and safety of people. The characteristics of critical infrastructure, including its long lifespan and interconnectedness, make it vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. International research that specifically addresses the adaptation of critical infrastructure systems to climate change is sparse. There is no standard definition of adaptive critical infrastructure, and no consistency in how climate change adaptation is applied when planning, designing and managing critical infrastructure. This paper explores how the definition of critical infrastructure can shape adaptation strategies and outcomes. We investigate how different adaptation strategies (e.g. protection, retreat and greening) are applied to different types of critical infrastructure; and reveal path dependencies between definitions, adaptation strategies and outcomes. There is no correct path to adaptation. The different contexts (e.g. environmental, political, etc.) in which the adaptation of critical infrastructure occurs requires flexibility in strategies and implementation. However, planners, who are trying to make critical infrastructure adaptive, need to think critically about how they are defining 'critical infrastructure', and how this framing will affect their outcomes. This is a timely discussion with new outcomes-based laws and stronger climate change direction imminent