The development of adaptation policies follows two parallel interacting tracks: 1) the formulation of a new comprehensiveand intergrated National Adaptation Strategy, 2) the implementation of the Delta Programme, which re-evaluates water management in the light of long-term sustainable development and climate change. Both the development of the NAS and the Delta Programme are nationwide programmes. This implies a joint effort of national government, provinces, municipalities and regional water boards work together with input from social organizations and the business community.

The new National Adaptation Strategy will amend the 2007 National Adaptation Strategy "Make Space for Climate". The formulation of the strategy is guided by an integral climate change policy agenda; ‘the Climate Agenda'. The new National Adaptation Strategy is to be presented in Parliament by 2016 at the latest. It will be based on the most recent insights in climate change, risks and vulnerability. It goes beyond the water related focus of the Delta Programme by comprehensively addressing other sectors, in particular health, energy and ICT infrastructure, transport, nature, agriculture and fisheries. Cross-sectoral cascading effects will also be taken into account. Various projects have been initiated to support the development of the strategy, like the set-up of a Monitoring and Evaluation framework for climate change adaptation. This system should monitor and evaluate the development of adaptation policy (=process), the implementation (=output) and effectiveness (=outcome). Also the effects of climate change elsewhere, in countries within and outside Europe, and possibly resulting in impacts on Dutch society and economy, will also be covered in underpinning the strategy.

The legal framework for the implementation of the Delta Programme in the Netherlands is ‘the Delta Act on flood safety and freshwater supply' (hereafter: the Delta Act). The Delta Act anchors the Delta Programme, the Delta Fund and the role of the Delta Commissioner. The Delta Act entered into force on 1 January 2012 [1]. 

The Delta Programme is a nationwide programme. The objective is to protect the Netherlands from (coastal and river) flooding, to realize climate resilient urban areas and to ensure adequate supplies of freshwater for generations ahead.

The Dutch Government appointed the Delta Commissioner whosubmits proposals  for the development of the Delta Programme on a yearly basis.  The minister of Infrastructure and the Environment co-ordinates the Delta Programme and bears primary responsibility with regards to reporting in parliament. The Delta Programme comprises plans and provisions to guarantee flood safety and a sufficient supply of freshwater, as well as climate resilient urban areas, including the relevant planning and a cost estimate.  The Delta Programme uses an integrated approach to finding solutions when tackling the issues of safety, water supply and the role that spatial planning can play in resolving those issues.  The integrated approach will lead to five key Delta Decisions. These Delta Decisions will be presented to parliament in September 2014 in a document called the "Delta Programme 2015". This docuemnt will also offe a long term perspective for the measures that are prepared to implement the European Framework Directive and Floods Directive and seeks to achieve coherence between them.

Interim decisions will take account of uncertainties around the future impact of climate change as well as spatial and socio-economic developments. The approach here is the so called ‘adaptive delta management', choosing the kind of necessary measures that keep options open for later adjustment. In the process all relevant material, results of research and knowledge programmes (‘Knowledge for Climate'), experience from international cooperation (‘Global Water Programme', ‘Delta Alliance', Connecting Delta Cities), and assessments by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (such as the study ‘Climate Adaptation in the Dutch Delta Strategic, options for a climate-proof development of the Netherlands') are taken into account. Adaptive delta management based on sound knowledge used in a future oriented Delta Programme is essential for cost-effective investments.

Up to 2015, the execution of investments in existing programmes (such as ‘Room for the River', ‘Border Meuse Programme' en ‘Flood Protection Programme') and projects (such as Climate buffers) continues. The recently published ‘Third Safety Assessment' which looked into the existing primary flood defence systems, acknowledged the importance of the considerable effort devoted to compliance with current, statutory flood protection standards. Reinforcing weak links along the coast is also work in progress. Meanwhile, flood protection standards are being reconsidered in the light of increased population numbers and economic value of assets.

The point of departure for financing the Delta Programme is that the burden is spread across the entire population of the Netherlands and across multiple generations (solidarity). The Delta Fund concentrates money dedicated by the national government for the implementation of measures and research needs. The fund will be highly significant for credible and timely delta-management in the coming decades. With effect from 2020, the Delta Fund will be fed with a minimum of € 1 billion a year in order to ensure momentum in the implementation of the Delta Programme. The Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment is responsible for the expenditures under this fund.

Regional Water Boards also make a structural contribution to financing the current Flood Protection Programme. As part of an Administrative Agreement on Water (concluded on 23 May 2011) regional Water Boards became co-financiers for the construction and improvement of primary flood defence systems, as managed by these boards. The agreement also focuses on cooperation in the Delta Programme under the direction of the Delta Commissioner. 

The Administrative Agreement on Water and the recently published policy note on Infrastructure and Spatial Planning designates the responsibilities of parties. The national government is responsible for national interests including flood risk management and the main water system. The provinces act as area-director, organize spatial planning and set out frameworks for the regional water system. The regional Water Boards supervise and manage the regional and the majority of primary defence systems as well as ensuring the availability of water as a resource of adequate quality in the regional water systems. The municipalities supervise the public areas within their duty of care under the Water Act and are the initial point of contact in the event of flooding. Working with the various partners and their responsibilities is an important part of the process in the Delta Programme under the direction of the Delta Commissioner.

In 2009 the Dutch provinces signed an agreement with the national government to mainstream climate adaptation into spatial planning by 2015. Today most provinces have written climate adaptation actionprogrammes. Priorities are mainstreaming climate adaptation into water management, spatial planning, nature policy, agriculture and economic policy.

Strengthen the knowledgebase / ‘Knowledge for Climate' (KfC)
Climate Adaptation Research The Netherlands develops scientific and applied knowledge needed for climate proofing The Netherlands. The research involves many actors in joint exploration of various adaptation options (co-creation).

From National Adaptation Strategy to Deltaprogramme


The Delta Act is formally an amendment of the Water Act



Climate scenarios KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute)

The KNMI'06 climate scenarios published in 2006 are the most recent KNMI scenarios available for the Netherlands.  A new generation of updated scenarios will be available in 2013. The KNMI'06 scenarios are guiding in the process of climate proofing the Netherlands, in particular for water management.

2008 Working together with water. A living land builds for its future. Findings of the Delta Commission.

A Delta Commission had been formed in 2008, as the current approach taken to coastal defense may no longer be viable in future and the approach needed to be scaled-up.

On September 3rd, 2008 the Delta Commission presented their advice to the Dutch Cabinet. The Delta Commission formulated twelve recommendations for the short and medium term.

The Dutch government responded to the advice of the Delta Commission with the start of the Delta Programme in 2009/2010. With the Delta Programme the Dutch government formulated new priorities in the field of adaptation to climate change.

2010 Climate Services (KNMI Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute)

The Climate Services has been established at the KNMI to make climate information available for different users. To do so, the services (i) translates science information into information understandable for users; (ii) come up with custom-made, ready to use products, i.e. climate information/data; (iii) give guidance on how to use information, including the limitations and uncertainties around information

2010 Adaptation strategy for climate-proofing biodiversity

Nature areas in the Netherlands are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Under implementation of the current nature policy, sustainable conservation of all plant- and animal species in all areas will not be feasible. Nature policy could be more effective when aimed at increasing nature's adaptive capacity.

2011 Climate Adaptation in the Dutch Delta Strategic options for a climate-proof development of the Netherlands (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)

The report shows that certain structural choices will need to be made. For example to enable a better response from nature to climate change, the spatial coherence between nature areas has to be increased. Future additional costs could substantially be reduced by taking into account today the climate-proofing requirements of tomorrow.

The Water Test/helpdesk Water

The helpdesk water created by the Dutch government, provinces, municipalities and the union of local water boards. It was primarily designed to answer questions from people who are (professionally) involved in water policy, water management and water safety-issues in the Netherlands.  

The National Page Public Health

This is the website with independent and science-based information on the current and possible future state of public health in the Netherlands. It includes a section on climate change, assessing causes of climate change, its impacts on public health and possible (policy) responses to mitigate and adapt.

Platform Communication on Climate Change

The Platform Communication on Climate Change (PCCC) [8] was established by the Dutch climate research community to improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the communication of Dutch climate research.

The Delta Programme distinguishes 9 priority areas, delegated to 9 subprogram's, of which 3 are of a generic sector nature and 6 have a specific regional focus:

Generic sector nature:

  • Safety
  • Freshwater supply
  • Climate resilient urban development

Regional focus:

  • IJsselmeer (central artificial freshwater lake)
  • Rijnmond-Drechtsteden (large urban area with high asset value and economic activities)
  • Southwest delta (outflow of major European rivers)
  • Rivers (Meuse and Rhine branches in low lying vulnerable areas)
  • Coast (protection of the low lying western parts, partly protected by dunes of natural origin)
  • Wadden (dynamic sedimentation area with important nature function) 


Rotterdam Climate Proof

In order to confront the challenge of climate change as an opportunity rather than a threat, the City of Rotterdam has set up the Rotterdam Climate Proof programme. Rotterdam Climate Proof will make Rotterdam climate change resilient by 2025. Permanent protection and accessibility of the Rotterdam region are key elements.

Natural Climate Buffers

  • Growing with the sea
  • Sedimentation and peat formation
  • Dikes and Mounds
  • Natural resilience

Room for the River Programme

In 1993 and 1995 the water levels in the river area were extremely high and the dikes just managed to hold. A quarter of a million people had to be evacuated. Extreme river discharges will occur more frequently in the future and for this reason it was decided to ensure that the rivers could discharge the forecast greater volumes of water without flooding. The Government approved the Room for the River Plan in 2007. 

This Plan has three objectives:

  1. by 2015 the branches of the Rhine will cope with a discharge capacity of 16.000 cubic meters of water per second without flooding;
  2. the measures implemented to increase safety will also improve the overall environmental quality of the river region;
  3. the extra room the rivers will need in the coming decades to cope with higher discharges due to the forecast climate changes, will remain permanently available.

Climate and Agriculture in Northern Netherlands [4]

Agriculture is a major economic factor in the north of the Netherlands. It is, therefore, highly important to assess in time how global climate change may impact agriculture in this part of the country and what measures could be taken. To gain this insight, the project ‘Climate and Agriculture Northern Netherlands' was set up.

Living with water / Watergraafsmeer Amsterdam

Combining population growth and climate adaptation in existing residential areas as a challenge. Through an integral approach it is possible to accelerate, economize and innovate. The main outcome will be a change in attitude and behavior. The WATERgraafsmeer will be the example of a successful transition within an urban area.

Item Status Links
National adaptation strategy Adopted 2007
Action plans Currently being undertaken
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments Completed, ongoing in research programmes
Research programs Ongoing
Climate services / Met Office
Web portal
Monitoring, Indicators, Methodologies Ongoing as part of research programmmes
5th National Communication on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Submitted (2009)

Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment,
Directorate for Spatial Development and Water Affairs,
Climate Adaptation International

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency