Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation

The Netherlands is a densely populated and low-lying country. This makes us extremely vulnerable to the consequences of extreme weather and climate change: waterlogging, heat, drought, and flooding. The risk of damage in urban and rural areas is increasing. The Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation stipulates that by 2050, the Netherlands must be water-resilient and climate-proof.

Municipalities, district water boards, provinces, and the central government are collectively ensuring that damage resulting from heat, waterlogging, drought, and flooding will be minimised. They are taking account of climate change in projects such as the construction of new residential areas and industrial estates, the renovation of existing buildings, the replacement of sewer systems, and road maintenance. To this end, they are utilising information on climate trends: the climate scenarios.

Interim goals

In order to ensure that the Netherlands will be climate-proof and water-resilient by 2050, several interim goals have been formulated. For example, with effect from 2020, climate-proof and water-resilient planning must be embedded in all the policies and actions of the parties. Government authorities must analyse the vulnerabilities of their own areas by conducting stress tests (“Analysis”). The results of this analysis are discussed in a risk dialogue with all the relevant partners and translated into an adaptation strategy featuring specific goals (“Ambition”). This ambition is embedded in an implementation agenda, other programmes, frameworks, legislation, and regulations (“Action”). This cycle is not a one-off process; the authorities must complete these steps every six years or earlier, if new developments so dictate.

National vital and vulnerable functions

The vital and vulnerable functions play an important part in climate-proof and water-resilient spatial planning. Such functions include, e.g., the power supply (electricity, gas, oil); telecom and IT (public grid and emergency communications); wastewater; drinking water; health care (such as hospitals); and pumping stations. The Delta Programme focuses additional attention on such functions, because flooding or extreme weather could result in failure of important facilities. Such failure could cause a great deal of damage or create major issues in terms of disaster control: digital communication and the accessibility of roads, for example, are crucial with respect to evacuation.

Each vital and vulnerable function calls for a tailormade approach. For that reason, in 2020 a core team will be formed for each function, comprising representatives of the Ministries responsible, grid and infrastructure managers, local governments, and regional governments. The core teams will be sharing information and knowledge, and coordinating and organising the provision of information. Collaboration with the Security Regions is essential in this respect. The Security Regions are conducting “‘impact analyses” to map out ways to reduce damage, casualties, and disruption.

Milestones in spatial adaptation

Over the past six years, a range of results and milestones has been achieved in the implementation of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation. Some examples:

  • In 2017, the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation was introduced, and in 2018 the authorities signed the Administrative Agreement on Climate Adaptation. One of the intentions set down in this Agreement is that additional financial resources will be made available.
  • Awareness of spatial adaptation is gaining momentum; the extreme weather of recent years has been conducive in this respect. Across the whole of the Netherlands, spatial adaptation features on increasingly more agendas of government bodies, corporations, residents, companies, and such sectors as construction.
  • The Netherlands comprises 42 Working Regions, each collaborating with various parties on spatial adaptation in their own areas. In some cases, the Working Regions are joining forces in Regional Consultative Bodies. Such bodies have been set up in the southern and eastern parts of the Netherlands.
  • Impact projects have been carried out , co-funded by the Incentive Programme, to amass practical know-how and share best practices.
  • The Spatial Adaptation Knowledge Portal  features nearly a hundred different tools to facilitate and support parties engaged in climate adaptation. Some of these tools have been developed by the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation and the National Water and Climate Knowledge and Innovation Programme , such as the stress tests, the Climate Impact Atlas , the Climate Damage Assessor , and the Climate-proof Cities Toolbox .
  • In 2019, so-called stress tests were conducted by municipalities, district water boards, provinces, Rijkswaterstaat, and ProRail. The stress tests have charted the vulnerabilities to waterlogging, drought, and heat, and generated insight into flood impact reduction. In 2020 and 2021, the authorities will discuss these vulnerability analyses with a wide range of parties to identify the risks and decide whether or not such risks will be accepted: the risk dialogue. This approach will raise general awareness, foster commitment, and encourage ownership. In the purview of the risk dialogues, the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation developed the Risk Dialogue Roadmap  in 2019.
  • In February 2020, the Senate and the House of Representatives endorsed an amendment to the Water Act enabling the provision of Delta Fund grants to local and regional governments in support of waterlogging measures.

Plans for the six years ahead

The next six years will see the roll-out of projects and activities aimed at the realisation of the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation. A full overview of the measures is contained in the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

Some milestones:

  • In 2020 and 2021, the governments will draw up concrete implementation agendas, featuring measures they will be taking in the pursuit of climate-proof and water-resilient planning.
  • In 2021, the central government will launch a temporary incentive scheme to provide local and regional governments with financial support to expedite their spatial adaptation efforts.
  • Such parties as housing corporations, NGOs, and (construction) companies are also encouraged to regard “climate-proof and water-resilient construction and planning” as the “new normal”. The same goes for residents, who can contribute their mites by, e.g., greening their gardens and roofs, and by collecting rainwater.
  • With effect from 2020, spatial adaptation will be anchored in all the policies and actions – specifically including all the environmental visions of the central government (2020), provinces (2022), and municipalities (2024) - and coordinated with the district water boards. Spatial adaptation will not be regarded as a separate issue: it will be intertwined with other spatial taskings, such as housing, the energy transition, circular farming, soil subsidence, biodiversity, and the mobility transition.
  • Support and knowledge sharing via the Spatial Adaptation Knowledge Portal  and the Climate Impact Atlas  will be continued.
  • The water taskings of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation, the Delta Plan on Freshwater Supply, and the Delta Plan on Flood Risk Management will be coordinated more efficiently.