Spatial Adaptation

Climate change increases the probability of waterlogging, heat, drought, and urban flooding This entails risks to our economy, health, and safety. It is imperative for the Netherlands to adapt to such changes. If we refrain from taking action the damage in our cities may rise to some 70 billion euros in the period up to 2050. Rural areas may also sustain considerable damage. Here, severe downpours and prolonged precipitation will cause waterlogging, while at other times drought may cause damage. Heat causes expansion-related problems in railways, bridges, and other infrastructure. In addition, heat will affect the health of vulnerable population groups, such as older people and young children.

Climate change calls for a shift in mindset: climate-proof and water-resilient design must become a matter of course in spatial (re)developments.


Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation

The Delta Programme 2018 is the first to include a Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. This sets out how municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the national government intend to expedite and intensify the spatial adaptation process. The Delta Plan contains 7 ambitions to this end. It indicates the goals pursued by the parties, how they intend to attain these goals, and how they will visualise the results. The Delta Plan comprises an action plan featuring concrete actions and measures. Just like the other Delta Plans, the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation will be a standard component of the Delta Programme annually presented by the Delta Programme Commissioner.

Click here to view the progress made with respect to spatial adaptation in Delta Programme 2018. The agreements on the working methods and the action plan can be found in Part III, Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation – Measures to render the Netherlands climate-proof and water-resilient.

Climate-proof and water-resilient

The core of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation is to have the Netherlands designed in a climate-proof and water-resilient manner by 2050. The government authorities will ensure that damage ensuing from heat stress, waterlogging, drought, and urban flooding will be kept to a minimum. This aim will be taken into account in the construction of new residential areas and business parks, the renovation of the existing built environment, sewer replacements, and road maintenance. Climate scenarios will be used to that end.

In close collaboration with the private sector and NGOs, the authorities will proceed in three steps:

  1. “Analysis”: analysing the impact of climate change for the various functions in an area in the period up to 2050 (looking ahead to 2100;
  2. “Ambition”: setting concrete goals for improving water-resilience and climate-proofing in the period up to 2050, and formulating an appropriate strategy to achieve these goals;
  3. “Action”: setting down the goals and the strategy in, for example, policy plans, legislation, regulations and programmes pertaining to implementation, management and “major” maintenance.

The central government, municipal authorities, provinces and district water boards conduct an annual survey to gauge the progress made. The surveys conducted in 2015 (benchmark), 2016 and 2017 have revealed that all the government authorities have set to work on the topics; the district water boards appear to have made the most headway. All the parties are aware of the impact of climate change in terms of waterlogging, flood risk management and drought. Heat stress appears to be of lesser concern. The interim evaluation conducted in 2017 has shown that acceleration and intensification of the strategy is essential. For that reason, the parties have drawn up the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

Proper spatial adaptation calls for commitment among all the parties, both public and private. The Spatial Adaptation Programme encourages such commitment by providing (financial) support to, e.g., living labs and City Deals. This incentive programme will be continued for another five years. Another important incentive tool is the knowledge portal, featuring information and tools. A key element is the Guidelines for Spatial Adaptation.

In 2017, a standardised stress test will be compiled to assist municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the national government in mapping out the vulnerabilities of their area. The knowledge portal also features the revised Climate Impact Atlas, enabling the quick visualisation of various climate effects (heat, waterlogging, drought). The effects may also be combined with information on, e.g., vulnerable groups, swimming water, or depths. The Climate Impact Atlas constitutes a sound basis for a stress test. In addition, the portal comprises an overview of ongoing adaptation projects.

A knowledge sharing network is being set up (Climate-proof Together Platform), aimed at an exchange of practical knowledge between local and regional governments and private professionals engaged in spatial adaptation at the local and regional levels.

One of the impact projects carried out recently is Land van Cuijk. Local governments have set down a declaration of intent to reduce, inter alia, waterlogging and heat stress. Other regions are also collaborating in the field of climate-proofing.


Vital and vulnerable functions

The central government ensures that national vital and vulnerable functions will be more resistant to flooding by no later than 2050. Vital and vulnerable functions are, for example, the energy supply (electricity, gas, oil), telecom and IT facilities (public network and emergency communication), the wastewater chain, the supply of drinking water, healthcare (such as hospitals), pumping stations and sluices, road transport, chemical companies and laboratories that work with pathogens.

The Delta Programme focuses special attention on these functions, as flooding may cause the failure of essential facilities and the release of harmful substances. In addition to the risk of casualties, flooding could also entail major economic loss, if areas were temporarily unfit for habitation or if key companies were inoperative for a prolonged period of time.

The approach to this issue is also based on the “Analysis, Ambition, Action” steps.

  1. Analysis: in 2015, together with the business community, the Ministries set down in detail how vulnerable the functions are. Subsequently, they are determining how they will reduce the vulnerability of each sector, with concrete steps and a timetable;
  2. Ambition: before 2020, the Ministries will have set down agreements in their policies and they will have arranged how they will monitor the efforts initiated by the sectors in this regard;
  3. Action: before 2050 – and as much earlier as possible – the sectors will take the necessary measures. Every year, the House of Representatives will receive an overview of the progress made as part of the annual Delta Programme.

Virtually all the national vital and vulnerable functions have completed the “Analysis” step and are embarking on “Ambition”, utilising experience gained in areas such as Botlek and Westpoort Amsterdam. In Westpoort, the city of Amsterdam and Waternet are working together on an adaptation strategy for vital and vulnerable infrastructure.

The third progress report on the Approach to National Vital and Vulnerable Functions contains a comprehensive account of the progress made with respect to agreements on vital and vulnerable functions.

Delta Programme 2018

To view the progress made with respect to this topic, click here: Spatial Adaptation in Delta Programme 2018.