Implementation of Paris climate agreement supports adaptive approach of Delta Programme

Published: 23 September 2016

The Delta Programme takes into consideration climate change and the increase in the Dutch population and economy in the 21st century. The Delta Scenarios were developed precisely for that purpose in 2013. But what will be the effect of the Paris climate agreement? And will the Prosperity and Living Environment (Welvaart en Leefomgeving) scenario study from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) shed a new light?

The staff of the Delta Commissioner put these questions about the robustness of the Delta Scenarios to experts from Deltares, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the PBL in preparation for the Delta Programme 2017, which will be released on budget day. In a quick scan (link invoegen), they conclude that the new insights are still covered by the bandwidth of the Delta Scenarios. In addition, the institutes advise further research looking at the impact of the scenario for the transition to renewable energy on water challenges. With this transition scenario, the Netherlands aims to contribute to the reduction in carbon emissions agreed in Paris.

The three institutes emphasise that the Delta Programme is right not to focus on just one or two possible scenarios but to seriously take faster or slower developments into account, to keep a finger on the pulse, to identify possible tipping points and to describe the implications of those tipping points in the adaptation strategies.

The Delta Programme uses ‘adaptive strategies’ that include responses to changes in the overall situation. Measures can be changed, delayed or accelerated. The Delta Scenarios are a tool that can be used here to assess possible new physical and socio-economic developments. They describe a plausible bandwidth of possible development by the middle and the end of the 21st century. The recent KNMI scenarios (2014) and the Prosperity and Living Environment scenario study from the PBL and CPB (2015) have been included in the scenarios and they fit in seamlessly.

The aim of the Paris climate agreement reached in December 2015 is to severely restrict global warming. The effects of this agreement will only become apparent in the long term after 2050. Sea-level rise, extreme rainfall, high water levels in the rivers and drought could be reduced as a result. This would be in line with the moderate climate scenarios of the Delta programme. However, this is only possible if the implementation of the climate agreement is tackled very quickly and goes much further than current national commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If this does not happen, sea-level rise could actually accelerate, possibly reaching more than one and a half metres in 2100, and continuing after that time. Furthermore, during the course of the century, more additional measures will be needed to prevent sea or river flooding. This is in line with the more extreme scenarios in the Delta Programme.

The implementation of the climate agreement requires a major transition in Netherlands in a range of economic sectors. Not just in terms of the energy supply, but also with respect to the use of land and water. The researchers are advising a more detailed study of the implications of this transition for water management, and the protection of the country from flooding and drought.