Rotterdam: From urban challenges to place-based visions - Climate proofing the city


A climate proof city that is economically strong and attractive.

Through climate change adaptation the city of Rotterdam can improve its social and ecological value.

As a Delta city Rotterdam will face several climate change effects like heat stress, intensifying rainfall, sea level rise. Proactively, the city turned over these possible threads towards opportunities to counteract climate change and - in the meantime - enhancing the quality of city life and improving the economical prospects of the city. Rotterdam will be climate proof!.

What are we dealing with?

Deltascenarios help anticipate socio-economic and environmnetal change

A combination of climate change and socio-economic scenario’s were used to predict impacts and develop strategic measures

Rotterdam is one of the largest cities in the Netherlands and harbours the largest port of Europe. An ingenious and robust flood protection system currently keeps the city and its port safe and dry. Climate projections indicate that the city of Rotterdam will experience sea level rise, heavier rainfall, drought and a changing river runoff. Combined climate change and socio-economic scenario’s were used to predict impacts and investigate possible measures. Scenario-analysis revealed an increase in flood risk towards the year 2100, both in the embanked and unembanked (floodplain) area. A strategy had been developed to withstand threads and to make use of the opportunities of climate change.

  • What is an important insight coming out of the flood damage modelling?
    "Indirect economic losses due to a flood can even be larger than direct losses." Elco Koks, Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam
  • Where do you find systemic knowledge?
    "Although institutes and experts are important contributors of knowledge, the knowledge can actually come from everywhere and every actor." Nick van Barneveld, Gemeente Rotterdam

What is the vision for the region?

Adapting to climate change goes hand in hand with strengthening the economy of the city and improving the environment. Climate change adaptation also provides opportunities to contribute to creating an involved and caring society and to improve the ecological value of the city. This is the core of the Rotterdam Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: 

  • We maintain and optimise the existing robust system. 
  • We improve its resilience by taking adaptive measures throughout the whole urban environment. 
  • We do this together with other parties and in combination (linking in) with other changes in the city. 
  • We take advantage of the opportunities that climate change adaptation provides.
  • What is our shared vision for the city?
    "The proper functioning of the city is much too important to be left to chance. Rotterdam is and will remain a safe, attractive, lively and economically strong city." Ahmed Aboutaleb - Mayor of Rotterdam City
  • What needs to be changed?
    "Because of climate change cities need a different, more integral approach of water management." Arnoud Molenaar - Program manager Rotterdam Climate Proof

What is the strategy for the region?

To confront uncertainty by developing flexible, integral and adaptive measures

Enhancing collaboration between different stakeholders within the city it is key to develop integral and adaptive measures.

In order to keep Rotterdam safe, the current flood protection system will be reinforced. The current storm surge barriers can withstand the sea level rise for a great deal and postpone the need for building new or other large infrastructural measures. No regret measures are taken first: existing dikes will be reinforced, flood hazards plans will be upgraded. New developments in the unembanked area will be implemented adaptively. Whenever it is possible, the measures will contribute to a greener and healthier environment for civilians and a stronger economy for companies. To achieve this, collaboration is needed between city departments, waterboards, Province, National government, knowledge institutes and the inhabitants and companies within the city.

  • What does flexibility mean in strategy planning?
    "Keep pathways open as long as possible. Take no regret measures first."

    Nick van Barneveld, Gemeente Rotterdam

  • What is essential for strategy development?
    "Strategic urban planning comes down to people, at all levels, with a dedicated coordinator." Hans De Moel, Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam

How do we implement the transition?

Infiltrate existing instruments, organisations, budgets, and create new governance tools to fill remaining gaps

Taking action and working with a bottom-up as well as a top-down approach.

The Rotterdam climate proof strategy is implemented in several ways. New instruments and policies are developed if current ones are not suitable. Be aware of changing governance and responsibilities. Extra budget is allocated towards current policies that are already in line with the strategy. Take action now and deal with uncertainties. Fear no mistakes; start pilot projects to explore possibilities. Involve civilians when engaging local (street) projects. Work top down and bottom up at the same time. Always address benefits in terms of upgrading environment or improvement of the economy. Work proactively, integral, and enthusiastically! Exploit your success.

  • What was our key lesson?
    "To mainstream you need effective, smart, but essentially very simple/easy to understand instruments. Prevent new discussions about uncertainty." 

    Nick van Barneveld, Gemeente Rotterdam

  • When and how do you act?
    "Seize opportunities whenever possible to combine developments."
    Hans De Moel, Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam

Key Lesson Learned

Climate Change Stresstest - Schiedam
Stresstest to raise awareness of threats and opportunities of climate change in the Rotterdam Region.