Spatial Adaptation

Climate change is making problems with excess water, heat, drought, and flooding more likely. This results in risks for our economy, health, and safety. It is of paramount importance for the Netherlands to adapt to these changes. One way to adapt is by structuring our urban and rural areas in climate-resilient and water-robust ways. The Delta Programme is working on this challenge under the heading of ‘spatial adaptation’.

In 2021, more attention than usual was paid to the topic of spatial adaptation because of the floods in Limburg and the extreme heat and forest fires in large parts of Europe. The KNMI’s Climate Signal ’21 (based on the latest IPCC report) states that climate change has led to consequences for people and nature worldwide that are partly irreversible. The limit of a rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees will already be reached in about ten years from now if the planet does not change its ways. 

A lot of hard work is being done but the road to making the Netherlands climate-resilient is still long. Most provincial and municipal authorities are actively working on integrating climate adaptation in the environmental visions. A hopeful sign is that there is now an intense focus on climate adaptation thanks to the work done in recent years in the 45 working regions of the Delta Programme for Spatial Adaptation.

If we do nothing, the damage in our cities may rise to between € 33 and 87 billion between now and 2050. There could also be major damage in rural areas. Torrential rainstorms and prolonged precipitation cause problems with excess water. At other times, there can actually be damage caused by water shortages. Heat causes problems with the expansion of railway tracks, bridges and other infrastructure. Heat also affects the health of vulnerable people such as the elderly and young children. Climate change will require a change in mindset: climate-resilient and water-robust planning must be an unquestioned component of spatial development/redevelopment. 

Delta Decision and Delta Plan

Spatial adaptation is one of the three themes of the Delta Programme. The ultimate objective and the joint ambitions have been set out in the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation. The core of that decision is that the Netherlands will be water-robust and climate-resilient by 2050. The national government has set out the substance of this Delta Decision and climate adaptation-related spatial policy in the National Water Programme (NWP), the National Environment Planning Vision and the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS). The implementation of this Delta Decision is described in the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. It is a step-by-step approach in a cyclical process from risk analysis to measures and emergency response.