Climate adaptation and spatial planning

Published on the 12th of june 2024
What spatial planning policies are needed to best prepare the Netherlands for the impacts of climate change, both in the short and longer term?
Village at sea with the sun on the skyline

Background and request for advice

By implementing the Climate Agreement, the Netherlands is helping to tackle the worldwide challenge of limiting global warming to no more than one and a half degrees Celsius. However, even if we manage to curb global warming, our country will still have to deal with more extreme temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent and longer-lasting periods of heavy precipitation or, conversely, severe drought. These developments have implications in terms of water safety and water availability, potential failure of vital and vulnerable functions, damage to agriculture and the economy, biodiversity loss and health effects. Consequently, the Netherlands will have to adapt to these consequences of a changing climate. The related actions have been set out in the Delta Programme and the National Adaptation Strategy.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the climate is changing faster than previously thought, making this a more pressing issue. Certain developments, such as long periods of drought or heavy precipitation, are already being experienced today, while others will manifest themselves in the longer term.

At the same time, the Netherlands is on the cusp of a major transformation. Space needs to be found to construct hundreds of thousands of new homes, along with the associated infrastructure and facilities, while also making the existing housing stock more sustainable. Investments are being made in renewable energy generation and the related grids. In rural areas, efforts are being made to promote sustainable agriculture and strengthen nature and biodiversity. These are all major spatial challenges that cannot be separated from the need for climate adaptation. Moreover, they are all urgent social challenges. The choices the Dutch government makes, together with other governments, will have a major impact on the long-term future of the Netherlands from a spatial perspective.

In this advisory project the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) is asking whether the consequences of accelerated climate change and the increasing need for climate adaptation are being taken into account sufficiently in the spatial planning choices that will be made in the years to come. How do we ensure that the Netherlands is climate-proof and water-robust and remains so in the long term?

The main question addressed in the report is:

What spatial planning policies are needed to best prepare the Netherlands for the impacts of climate change, both in the short and longer term?

In answering this question, the Council distinguishes between spatial design and spatial planning, based on the assumption that, over the long term, spatial design solutions alone will not be enough to keep the Netherlands climate-proof and water-robust. What planning choices should be made, who should make them and when, what do these questions mean for the institutions involved, what knowledge is needed to make these choices and is this knowledge available?


Published on wednesday the 12th of june 2024

Composition of the Council committee

Jan Jaap de Graeff, committee chairperson and chair of the Rli
Emmy Meijers, Rli council member

External committee members:
Floris Alkemade, architect and author
Sander Meijerink, Professor of Water Governance at Radboud University Nijmegen
Peter Pelzer, Assistant Professor of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at Utrecht University

Information or response

For more information about the advisory report or to comment, please contact the project leader, Luc Boot, at, or on +31 (0)6 1057 7495.