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Last update:01 Jun 2018

Item Status Links
National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) Adopted 2016
Delta Programme 2017 Adopted 2016
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments Completed, ongoing in research programmes
Research programs Completed 2014
Climate services / Met Office Established
Web portal Online
Monitoring, Indicators, Methodologies Ongoing as part of research programmmes
Training and education resources Included in knowledge and research resources
National Communication on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Last National Communication Submitted


The general adaptation policy is laid down in the 2007 National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), “Make Space for Climate”, which sets out a general policy for tackling the effect of climate. The government published in 2013 the Climate Agenda, an integrated climate mitigation and adaptation approach. With regard to adaptation the goals of the NAS where reiterated and it was announced that a new comprehensive and integrated National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) will be formulated by ultimately 2017. In December 2016 the Council of Ministers adopted a new National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS). The NAS 2016 concentrates on the following subjects:
•    Heat stress affecting vulnerable societal groups
•    Failure of infrastructure networks because of extreme weather
•    Frequent crop damage and other damages in agriculture and horticulture because of extreme weather
•    Shifting climate zones because of gradual climate change
•    Reduction of health, labour and others costs because of a possible increase in allergies and infections
•    Cascading effects
Within the framework of the NAS several programmes in different policy fields address climate adaptation. One of the largest programs is the Delta Programme, which started in 2010, re-evaluating water management and spatial planning in the light of long-term climate change. The Delta Programme is a nationwide programme, in which the national authorities, provinces, water boards and local authorities work together in an innovative way, also with contributions from NGO’s, knowledge institutes, companies as well as citizens. The objective is to protect the Netherlands from (coastal and river) flooding, to work towards a climate resilient country and to ensure adequate supplies of freshwater for generations ahead.

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 Dutch Government appointed the Delta Commissioner to direct the development and implementation of the Delta Programme. Every year the Delta Commissioner reports to the Cabinet about progress and advises on necessary steps. On behalf of the Cabinet the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment presents the Delta Commissioner's annual report to the Parliament supplemented with an appropriate policy response. The provinces, municipalities, the regional water boards, as well as NGOs, are closely involved in developing this annual report.

Solidarity between regions and between generations, sustainable development and flexibility are the three key principles of the Delta Programme. The Delta Fund holds 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. As of 2020, the Delta Fund will be fed with a minimum of €1 billion a year in order to ensure the implementation of the Delta Programme. Every year the Delta Commissioner will present an advice on how to target the budget on necessary measures and supporting research in the annual Delta Programme. The Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment decides and is politically responsible. 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 (e. g. ‘Netherlands Water Partnership', ‘Partners for Water', ‘Delta Alliance' and  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' and ‘Flood Protection Programme'), and projects (such as Climate buffers) continued. 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 segments of the coastal defence is finalized. Meanwhile, new flood protection standards have been proposed in the light of increased population numbers and economic value of assets that are turned into legal norms as of 1 January 2017.

Regional Water Boards make a structural contribution to financing the current Flood Protection Programme. As part of an Administrative Agreement on Water Affairs (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 co-financing is equally distributed, the water boards are responsible for funding half of the construction and improvement costs, the other half is funded by the Delta Fund. The agreement also focuses on cooperation in the Delta Programme. 

In 2009 the Dutch provinces signed an agreement with the national government to mainstream climate adaptation into spatial planning. Today most provinces have developed climate adaptation action programmes. Priorities are ‘no regret' options and mainstreaming climate adaptation into water management, spatial planning, nature policy, agriculture and economic policy.

Next to these programmes, sector (infrastructure, nature, health etc.) specific adaptation measures are in the process of being created or are already being implemented (see section 3).


[1] The Delta Act is formally an amendment of the Water Act

The new National Adaptation Strategy 2016 (NAS) updates the 2007 National Adaptation Strategy "Make Space for Climate". The formulation of the NAS is guided by the integral (mitigation and adaptation) climate policy agenda:  ‘the Climate Agenda' (2013) and is based on recent insights in climate risks and vulnerabilities and socio-economic developments. The NAS 2016 has been presented to Parliament.

An important building block to the new Strategy is an overall assessment of the risks and opportunities arising from climate change which was made in 2015 by PBL, KNMI and Knowledge for Climate-program. The report provides an overview of the risks and opportunities in the health, food, energy and ICT sectors. Also water safety and water supply are discussed as well as biodiversity. The report also discusses the risks and opportunities in the fields of economic and foreign policy. The new NAS will go beyond the water related focus of the Delta Programme by comprehensively addressing 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. Also the effects of climate change elsewhere, in countries within and outside Europe, which might result in impacts on Dutch society and economy, will be covered in the strategy. The NAS has also been developed in close cooperation with stakeholders. To this end, three national workshops are held as well as a national climate summit, all bringing together government at different levels, knowledge organisations and the private sector.

The NAS announces the development of a Monitoring and Evaluation framework for climate change adaptation. This system will primarily look into progress with the adaptation policies (=process), but also seeks transparency with regards to implementation (=output) and effectiveness (=outcome) of actions.

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 and adaptive approach in finding solutions when tackling the issues of safety, water supply and the role that spatial planning can play in resolving those issues. In September 2014 key decisions on policy frameworks and regional strategies were presented to the Parliament in the "Delta Programme 2015". The cabinet has accepted the proposed Delta Decisions as government policy, to be elaborated in national legislation and administrative agreements. The central government has embedded the Delta Decisions in the National Water Plan as policy decisions. The Delta Decisions are currently being translated into specific strategies, plans and concrete measures for different parts of the Netherlands. 

In 2016, based on the Delta Decision on Water Safety, new flood protection standards were adopted by the Dutch parliament. These new standards are risk-based, i.e. they express a tolerable flood probability of a specified damage or loss of life. Dykes, dams and dunes that do not comply with the new standards will be strengthened, to be completed by 2050. By then, the new standards will have raised the flood protection level of the Netherlands.
The Delta Programme 2015 also offers a long term perspective supporting the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive in a coherent way.

1. Observations and projections

The main source of climate information comes from the Dutch meteorological office, the KNMI Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. The institute is legally obliged to provide observations on atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial indicators and is funded by the Dutch government. The KNMI also provides information and data on weather, extreme weather events, climate, and climate change and transforms these data into understandable information for the public, other research institutes and universities. One example is the Delta scenarios, in which the climate information is combined with socio-economic developments on land use, water and space, derived from the Welfare, Prosperity and Quality of the Living Environment (in Dutch: Welvaart en leefomgeving (WLO)) study from 2006, that were used in the Delta Programme. The observations gathered by the KNMI are publically available and date back to the beginning of the 20th century when measurements started. The 2014 KNMI 14' climate scenarios provide the national basis for the national adaptation policymaking (see Research).

2. Impacts & vulnerability assessments

Vulnerability assessments are generally realised through European research projects and national studies. The most important and recent national efforts include reports from the Delta Programme, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) advices and the Knowledge for Climate programme. The PBL is an independent governmental organisation and reports the most recent information on climate change itself and its impacts on flood safety, freshwater availability and quality, nature, agriculture, human health and tourism in the Netherlands. The Knowledge for Climate research programme has ended in 2015. An overview of the results of the programme can be found at the Knowledge for Climate website.
Within the Delta Programme annual progress on water related climate adaptation policy and measures  is presented to the Dutch government and Parliament. In 2014 several so-called Delta Decisions were adopted. These were based on the KNMI climate models  and represent policy frameworks for the approach to flood risk management, freshwater supply, and climate-proof and water-robust development of cities and rural areas in the Netherlands. In February 2015 the PBL, the KNMI and the Knowledge for Climate programme published an assessment of the risks and opportunities that arise from climate change in the Netherlands.

3. Research

The most important research contributions to Climate Adaptation have been done within Knowledge for Climate program. The PBL,KNMI, TNO, RIVM, WUR, as well as other  knowledge institutes, universities, NGO's are also active in this field.etc.  Partly as follow up of the Knowledge for Climate Programme, in 2015 the National Knowledge and Innovation Programme on Water and Climate (NKWK) was started as an initiative of several governmental organisations, knowledge organisations and the private sector. The programme aims at investing in coordinated knowledge and innovation developments on a range of issues dealing with water and climate. The topics include, among others, climate-resilient cities, water and energy, and sustainable water management.

 The following products are in support of the national adaptation to climate change process.

The KNMI Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

The KNMI'14 climate scenarios are the most recent KNMI scenarios available for the Netherlands (published September 2014). In 2010 the KNMI established the Climate Services to make climate information available for different users.

Knowledge for Climate

From 2007 to 2015 Knowledge for Climate has been the major research programme for the development of knowledge and services that makes it possible to climate proof the Netherlands. This has been done on several themes and hotspots. Together with several knowledge partners, they have done research on the opportunities and risks of climate change for adaptation policy.


The National Knowledge and Innovation Programme on Water and Climate (NKWK) started in 2015 and aims at bringing together knowledge and practical experiences to further the knowledge and stimulate innovative approaches in dealing with water and climate issues. The research topics include land subsidence and water management; sustainable management of major water systems; coastal dynamics; climate resilient cities; Markerwadden (“Building with Nature” pilot and research in one of the major lakes); National Hydrological model; North Sea; River dynamics; smart water management; future resilient water infrastructure; water and energy, water and food; flood defences; and water-soil interactions in sandy soils.


The most important contributions of the PBL to the climate adaptation policy can be found in the following reports: Aanpassen aan klimaatverandering - Kwetsbaarheden zien, kansen grijpen  (2015), Building blocks for a national adaptation strategy (2013), The effects of climate change in the Netherlands (2012), Climate Adaptation in the Dutch Delta. Strategic options for a climate-proof development of the Netherlands (2011) and Adaptation strategy for climate-proofing biodiversity (2010).

The following reports and websites have further contributed to the development of the climate adaptation policy.

2014 Spatial Adaptation Knowledge Portal 

The spatial adaptation knowledge portal helps to plan in urban areas in a climate proof and water resilient way.  The portal supports cooperation between various stakeholders to exploit opportunities that climate change brings and build urban areas that are attractive and at the same time resilient to extreme precipitation, periods of drought and heat and the consequences of possible flooding. This knowledge portal belongs to the Delta Programme theme Spatial Adaptation.

2012 Adaptation to climate change: strategy and policy: The Algemene Rekenkamer audited the Netherlands' climate adaptation policy, i.e. the measures being taken to make the country less vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.

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.

Climate Adaptation Services/Climate Atlas

The Climate Adaptation Atlas consists of geospatial maps visualizing the possible impacts of climate change, and its consequences on a regional scale. The atlas contains maps of precipitation, temperature, flood safety, water nuisance, drought, urban heat island effect, and impacts on agriculture and nature. The maps are disclosed via an open access web portal. The objective of a Climate Atlas is to make the effects of climate change tangible on a local level and allow local governments and other actors to work towards adaptation strategies and a climate-proof future. The atlas is fully incorporated in the knowledge platform spatial adaptation.

4. Monitoring Progress. Effectiveness/efficiency

Following the NAS that will be completed in 2017, work has already started on a monitoring and evaluation system to implement after the NAS is ready. The M&E system is developed by the PBL [1]. The focus will be on the implementation of the NAS in terms of process and results to be able to answer the question: ‘are we still doing the right things?'. To this end, six strategic signposts are defined to track inputs, outputs and outcomes: i) the expected changes in the climate and the knowledge on possible effects; ii) the financial framework; iii) te political/administrative setting; iv) the societal setting; v) new knowledge and technologies; and vi) unforeseen circumstances/interventions. The signposts have different indicators for each policy theme in the NAS. The implementation of the M&E system will be based on cooperation with the different administrative levels and a wide range of societal stakeholders.

The Delta programme is developing a monitoring and evaluation system called Monitoring, Analyzing, Acting (MAA). The system aims to keep track of both the implementation of the adaptation strategies and of external developments that might ask for adjustments of these strategies.


[1] van Minnen, J., Kunseler, E., Harley, M., Klostermann, J. and Ligtvoet, W. (2015) Ontwerp voor een Nationale Adaptatiemonitor. PBL rapport nr 1640.


Following the priority subjects in the new NAS which has been sent to the Parliament in December 2016, stakeholders from all relevant sectors are involved in elaborating response and implementing actions. In 2016 three national workshops were organised.  Also the national climate summit, organised by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment in October 2016, was used to consult different government levels, civil society organisations and the private sector with regard to the new NAS. Also actions were identified with regard to climate adaptation.
As part of the Delta Program ‘Spatial Adaptation’ in 2015 an engagement programme has been set up to stimulate regional and local policy makers, institutes and businesses to create climate proof and water resilient cities by 2020. The engagement programme focusses on capacity building and mainstreaming of spatial adaptation. Another example of a  climate adaptation program is the ‘natural climate buffers', that aims to contribute to climate-proofing the Netherlands by capitalising on the adaptive capacity of natural systems and that looks for opportunities to combine functions and realise co-benefits for nature and other functions together with, for example, flood safety. Case examples have been initiated for different landscape types.  
Several sectors and regions work on their own adaptation programmes. The City of Rotterdam, for instance, runs the Rotterdam Climate Proof programme to make Rotterdam climate change resilient by 2025 through, e.g. green roofs, so-called ‘water squares', a new rowing course to enlarge the water storage capacity of the city, and floating architecture in the old port areas. More examples can be found via the following links: Room for the River Plan, Climate and Agriculture Northern Netherlands and WATERgraafsmeer.

  1. Adaptation capacity, dissemination, education, training

The website of the Delta Programme offers ample information about climate adaptation. On the spatial adaptation website (part of the Delta Program) people are asked to share projects that can act as showcases for spatial adaptation to climate change. Over 150 showcases throughout the Netherlands are currently displayed on the website that inspire others and transfers knowledge. Next to showcases, a guideline to spatial adaptation is provided. The engagement program aims at making institutes and municipalities aware of the impacts and adaptation to climate change. Public awareness is also raised via this route. The KNMI informs governmental organisations, institutes and the general public on climate change through their knowledge centre website (in Dutch). NGO's such as the World Wildlife Fund inform the general public on the impact of climate change and the need for action. Several governmental institutes developed the website "will I flood?" to make citizens aware of the need to prepare themselves against flooding.   

Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment,
DG for Spatial Development and Water Affairs, Programme Climate Adaptation

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

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