Delta Commissioner: Accelerate preparations for climate change

The national government, provincial and municipal authorities, and water authorities must accelerate the implementation of the measures from the National Delta Programme in the years ahead so that the Netherlands will be protected against high water, weather extremes and freshwater shortages in 2050 and beyond. The climate is changing, the time to prepare is getting shorter and the challenges more daunting. In addition, government authorities need to take more measures to mitigate damage if things go wrong unexpectedly due to extremely wet or dry weather.

That was the message from Delta Commissioner Peter Glas accompanying the 2023 Delta Programme that was presented to the Dutch House of Representatives today by Minister Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management. Delta Commissioner Peter Glas: “Last summer, Limburg and parts of Germany and Belgium were devastated by extreme rainfall and floods. And this summer, drought and heat affected not only our country, but much of Europe. The climate is changing, faster than we had previously anticipated. The need to adapt to the effects of climate change is growing all the time.”

Less and less time to prepare

The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as Dutch scientific studies, are providing us with an increasingly clear picture of the consequences of climate change. With extreme rainfall, heat waves, drought and floods worldwide, as well as the rising sea levels that are also being seen on the Dutch coast. In his letter accompanying the 2023 Delta Programme, the Delta Commissioner said that the parties involved must move faster so that future generations can continue to live and work safely and agreeably in the Netherlands. “We have less time to prepare, so I am saying to everyone: get to work to cope with the effects of extreme weather that are already apparent. And because of accelerated sea level rise, set aside room now for dike upgrades and water storage as well in the future,” was his message.

The Delta Commissioner also called on the government authorities concerned to step up their efforts to implement measures that will reduce the social impact of extreme weather. “Torrential rainstorms of the kind seen in Limburg could fall anywhere in the Netherlands, at any time. The Netherlands must prepare better for extreme events of this kind, and their unpredictable consequences,” Glas explained. The Delta Commissioner described how extra efforts are needed to, for example, eliminate obstacles that retain water unnecessarily, as well as measures for essential utilities such as supplies of drinking water and energy.

Water and soil as leading factors

In his letter accompanying the 2023 Delta Programme, the Delta Commissioner noted that the principle that water and soil should guide spatial planning is taking shape. So that spatial plans and interventions are climate-resilient and so that we do not pass on any disruption and damage to future generations. He believes that a transformation is needed to put all this into practice. “So I am saying to government authorities and other parties active in the spatial domain: link up the challenges for nature, sustainable agriculture and housing to the challenge of making the Netherlands climate-adaptive, and base all that on the water and soil system. The time for freedom of action is over: take real action now.”

See also the outlines of the 2023 Delta Programme (in Dutch).