Olivier Frémond begins by emphasizing the important ties between infrastructure and public policy: issues of fairness, accessibility, provision of services, and efficient use of the public purse are all deeply intertwined with infrastructure. Infrastructure itself is the foundation upon which society is built, encompassing such services as provision of electricity, water, transport, health, and education. The delivery of these services to beneficiaries is jeopardized by climate change because the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events impacts the operations of existing infrastructure facilities. Adaptation and resilience can save hundreds of millions of dollars. Climate change also requires the construction of new sorts of infrastructure that will enable the production, transmission, and distribution of new sources of energy and mitigate carbon emissions.
In 2015, 196 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in the Paris Agreement. However, the world is far from reaching this goal. In fact, unless we significantly reduce our carbon emissions, global warming could reach 5-degree Celsius. This increase would have disastrous consequences for the planet and humanity. To mitigate the effects of climate change, carbon emission must be reduced by around 400 gigatons per year by 2030.
Frémond argues that a key part of this reduction must come from innovation in the energy and transport sectors. Carbon capture is a proven technology that allows emitted carbon to be captured and stored rather than released into the atmosphere. A Norwegian project, Northern Lights, offers an example of how this works. The project will allow northern European countries to capture their carbon at the point of emissions of power plants or industry facilities, compress it, and ship it to Norway. From this point it will be pumped into the North Sea via a pipeline and stored in a reservoir in the Earth's crust. This project and others like it could offset the excess emission of carbon and allow governments to meet the 2050 goal of net zero.
In addition to carbon capture, Frémond lays out a path to net zero that includes developing innovative technologies such as clean hydrogen, atom fusion, and electric vehicles, in addition to scaling up solar, wind and nuclear energies. These technologies will require massive investment in infrastructure, estimated at seven to eight trillion dollars until 2030. He argues that coal plants must be decommissioned, as they are responsible for 30% of yearly carbon emissions. To finance the investment requirements, policy makers should find ways to price negative externalities and offer tax incentives to incentivize firms to reduce their carbon footprints. Private sector capital is needed to complement public investment, and public-private partnerships (PPPs) are needed to mobilize human capital, financial resources, and government capabilities.
In closing, Frémond argues that economists must find new yardsticks to guide policy makers in their fight against climate change and generate public buy-in for government policies, rather than measuring economic progress solely through GDP.
Olivier Frémond is currently the non-executive Chairman of Madenco, a Dutch company dedicated to the training of infrastructure specialists through e-Simulations.
He began his career in the oil industry as a petroleum engineer with Royal Dutch Shell. He then moved to the financial sector, focusing on project finance, mergers and acquisitions and privatization with the British Merchant Bank Schroders, prior to joining the World Bank Group. Frémond spent 20 years at the World Bank where he held various senior positions, including Senior Advisor to the World Bank's Public-Private Partnerships Department, WBG Representative to the G20 Working Group for Infrastructure, member of the Supervisory Board of the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), Country Manager in Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe, Equatorial Guinea, and Benin, and Director of the Corporate Governance Division. He is the author of several publications on privatization, public-private partnerships and corporate governance, and a MOOC on PPPs with the Coursera platform.
Since 2018 he has taught public policy and public private partnerships in public infrastructure at the Washington DC campus of SAIS and Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. He also continues to advise emerging markets and developing countries on their PPP programs.