In 2005, I visited the climate conference in Montreal. At that time, it was not yet possible to connect the worlds of climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Talking about ‘adapting to climate change’ was seen as undermining the commitment to fighting climate change.
16 years later, this stance has been superseded by reality. The recently published IPCC report is a serious warning to all of us: the climate developments are going faster than expected, and the consequences are becoming more serious than assumed so far. We therefore need to do more and act faster to fulfil the climate agreements from Paris, and we already have to do a lot to keep the world liveable. The slower we implement our energy transition, the more serious the consequences will be. Those consequences are already there and will become more dramatic for the generations yet to be born.
Adapting to climate change also requires action now: major adjustments to our use of space and land or our infrastructure always take a long time. We must therefore examine to what extent we can work ahead: we cannot leave the bill for energy transition and adaptation measures to our children.
The Netherlands has an excellent starting position: we carefully measure and monitor developments and work on long-term strategic foresights in the Delta Programme. But what we saw in Germany, Belgium and Limburg this summer, is that we can be surprised by ‘unprecedented’ events: circumstances that do not occur in our statistics and models. We should also not overestimate our safety and engineering.
At Deltares, we therefore advocate that spatial decisions should take much greater account of the vulnerability of our Delta and the future costs of keeping the country running.
And there is no doubt about it: the more ambitious we are in slowing down global warming, the more likely we are to be successful in using our soil and water management to protect our prosperity and well-being.
So I am counting on leadership in Glasgow!