iScience, Volume 24, 19 November 2021,
Major infrastructure financiers will have to significantly decarbonize their investments to meet mounting promises to cut carbon emissions to “net-zero” by mid-century. We provide new details about those needed shifts. Using two World Bank databases of infrastructure projects throughout the developing world, and applying a methodology for imputing the projects' likely future carbon output, we assess the emissions profile of power-plant projects executed from 2018 through 2020 — the three years immediately preceding the spate of net-zero pledges. We find that approximately half the generation executed in those years is too carbon-intensive to align with keeping Earth's average temperature from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, largely because of the prevalence of new natural-gas–fired power plants. We also find new evidence of host countries' agency in shaping carbon trajectories: Much of the climate-misaligned financing is not foreign but domestic. And we find different institutions are financing infrastructure portfolios with significantly differing carbon intensities.