Adaptation to climate change is necessary

Climate change increases the probability of waterlogging, heat, drought, and floods. 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. According to the World Disasters Report drawn up by the International Red Cross, the heatwave that hit France in the summer of 2015, with a death toll of some 3,300 people, was the second deadliest natural disaster of that year, after the earthquake in Nepal.

Climate change increases the probability of waterlogging, heat, drought, and floods.

The Flood Protection Programme has been set up to prevent flooding. This Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation focuses on reducing the impact of flooding through spatial planning, should a flood occur nonetheless.

If we refrain from taking action the damage in our cities may rise to some 70 billion euros in the period up to 2050.

Source: Report Schades door watertekorten en -overschotten in stedelijk gebied [Damage caused by water shortages and excess water in urban areas] (Deltares 2012) and Manifest Klimaatbestendige stad [Climate-proof Cities Manifest] (Coalities Klimaatbestendige stad, 2013).

Expediting and intensifying the strategy

The Netherlands has been working on spatial adaptations to climate change for some time. However, the urgency of adaptation has grown. The consequences of climate change are already noticeable, as confirmed by recent studies. The frequency of extreme precipitation already exceeds that of the 1950s, and the probability of such severe downpours is expected to increase even further in the future. The impact of extreme precipitation is clearly illustrated by the waterlogging that particularly affected the southern part of the country in the summer of 2016. Another significant fact is that recent years virtually all rank among the ten warmest years ever recorded, both in the Netherlands and across the globe.

The frequency of extreme precipitation already exceeds that of the 1950s, and the probability of such severe downpours is expected to increase even further in the future.

Stowa, 2015. Nieuwe neerslagstatistieken voor het waterbeheer: extreme neerslaggebeurtenissen nemen toe en komen vaker voor. [New precipitation statistics for water management: extreme precipitation events are increasing both in scope and frequency].

How exactly the climate in the Netherlands will develop is uncertain. This depends on worldwide developments. Global warming may give rise to cascading effects and abrupt changes, such as the accelerated breaking up of ice caps, the disappearance of sea ice around the North Pole, the thawing of permafrost areas, changes in ocean currents, and changes in rainfall patterns (more intense and longer). For the Netherlands, as a low-lying and densely populated country, climate change may have a substantial impact. For that reason, the Netherlands will need to take an adaptive stance in responding to changing insights and developments regarding the climate. Since 2010, adaptive delta management has been the central approach in the Delta Programme.

With the current working method, we are making insufficient headway with spatial adaptation. The interim evaluation of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation shows that its implementation has got off to a good start, yet the current approach fails to sufficiently encourage the parties involved to adopt spatial adaptation as an inseparable component of their policies and implementation efforts with effect from 2020. This prevents us from attaining the goals set down earlier. The evaluation of the Delta Act has already demonstrated that, as yet, spatial adaptation is largely perceived as noncommittal, while regions and municipalities differ widely in terms of both awareness, and analysis and approach. In several motions the House of Representatives has urged that these efforts be expedited. One such motion requested the government to develop, in collaboration with municipalities, district water boards and other parties, a sound urban water management action plan in 2016 in order to promote water storage and greening in the cities (Jacobi/Dik-Faber motion).


Jacobi/Dik-Faber motion, Parliamentary Document 34300-J no.22 dated 30 November 2015: “… requests the government to develop, in collaboration with municipalities, district water boards, and other parties a sound urban water management action plan in 2016, setting out every conceivable way of promoting water storage and greening in the cities.” Visser motion, Parliamentary Document 34436 no. 8 dated 4 July 2016: “… requests the government to enter into consultations with the district water boards and municipalities to draw up a plan for responding more rapidly in the future in such extreme cases in order to minimise the damage.” Jacobi/Leenders motion Parliamentary Document 34550-J no. 23 dated 22 November 2016: “… requests the government to encourage, in the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation, private initiatives in the fields of greening and water retention, and remove (any) obstacles to such efforts.” Geurts motion Parliamentary Document 34550-J no. 21 dated 14 November 2016: “… requests the government to recommend the Code Orange action plan of the Peel en Maasvallei district water board, at the collaborative level of the southern part of the country, as a pioneering project within the framework of the Delta Programme on Climate Adaptation.”

Ergo, we need to do more. We need to step up our efforts and take more targeted, concrete action. Acceleration is also urgent in areas not acutely under threat: in order not to miss out on opportunities ensuing from investments in buildings and infrastructure, many of which will, after all, continue to exist for many decades.

In order to achieve the desired acceleration, the Delta Programme partners, at the proposal of and under supervision of the Delta Programme Commissioner, have decided to compile this Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

  1. Cover letter and Delta Programme Commissioner’s recommendations
  2. Introductory summary
    1. Continuing the work on a sustainable and safe delta
  3. Part I National level
  4. Progress of the Delta Programme
    1. Progress based on Monitoring, Analysing, Acting
    2. General picture of the progress
      1. On schedule
      2. On track
      3. Integrated approach
      4. Participation
      5. Effectiveness of the regions
    3. Progress in flood risk management
    4. Progress in spatial adaptation
    5. Progress in freshwater supply
    6. Embedding, knowledge and innovation, international collaboration
      1. Embedding
      2. Knowledge
      3. Innovation
      4. International efforts
  5. Delta Fund
    1. Developments in the Delta Fund
    2. Resources from other partners
    3. The financial taskings of the Delta Programme
    4. Financial security of the Delta Programme
  6. Part II Regions
  7. Progress per region
    1. IJsselmeer Region/freshwater supply region IJsselmeer Region
    2. Rhine Estuary-Drechtsteden/West-Netherlands freshwater supply region
    3. Rhine/ Area around the major rivers freshwater supply region
    4. Meuse
    5. Southwest Delta/Southwest Delta freshwater supply region
    6. The Coast
    7. Wadden Region
    8. Elevated Sandy Soils South and East
  8. Part III Delta Plans
  9. Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management
    1. Implementation programmes
      1. Flood Protection Programme
      2. Second Flood Protection Programme
      3. Room for the River
      4. Meuse Projects
      5. WaalWeelde
      6. IJsselmeer Closure Dam
      7. Repair of Oosterschelde and Westerschelde stone claddings - Zeeland foreland deposits
    2. River widening in interconnection with dyke improvement
    3. Studies ensuing from knowledge agenda and in regions
  10. Map Flood risk management measures
  11. Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply
    1. Measures to ensure the availability of freshwater in the Netherlands
  12. Map Freshwater supply measures
  13. Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation
    1. Introduction
      1. Justification
      2. Aim and state of affairs of the Delta Plan
      3. Collective realisation
    2. Context
    3. “Analysis, Ambition, Action” – state of affairs
      1. Waterlogging
      2. Heat stress
      3. Drought
      4. Consequences of urban flooding
      5. Current approach
    4. Our intentions: expediting and intensifying
      1. Vision: from the present to 2050
      2. Ambition and strategy
      3. Interim goals
      4. Nationwide governance framework regarding spatial adaptation
      5. Funding
    5. Appendix 1. Action programme
    6. Appendix 2. Outcomes of regional meetings and round table discussions
  14. List of Background Documents
    1. Background documents
  15. Colophon
    1. Colophon content Delta Programme 2018
  16. How to use Delta Programme 2018