Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 981–995 | Cite as

Climate-proof planning for flood-prone areas: assessing the adaptive capacity of planning institutions in the Netherlands

  • Margo van den Brink
  • Sander Meijerink
  • Catrien Termeer
  • Joyeeta Gupta
Original Article


It is generally acknowledged that adapting low-lying, flood-prone deltas to the projected impacts of climate change is of great importance. Deltas are densely populated and often subject to high risk. Climate-proof planning is, however, not only a new but also a highly complex task that poses problems for existing institutional and administrative structures, which are the product of times in which climate issues were of little importance. This paper assesses the capacity of the historically grown Dutch planning institutions to promote climate-proof planning for flood-prone areas. The Adaptive Capacity Wheel provides the methodological framework. The analysis focuses on two planning projects in the west of the Netherlands: the Zuidplas Polder project at the regional level and the Westergouwe project at the local level. It is shown that the planning institutions involved in these projects enable climate-proof planning, but to a limited extent. They face five institutional weaknesses that may cause risks on the long term. To climate-proof urban developments in flood-prone areas, it is necessary to break through the strong path–dependent development of planning institutions and to build in more flexibility in existing rules and procedures.


Climate adaptation Spatial planning Institutions Adaptive capacity The Netherlands 



This paper has been written within the project entitled: ‘IC12: Institutions for Adaptation: The Capacity and Ability of the Dutch Institutional Framework to Adapt to Climate Change’, funded by the Netherlands BSIK-Programme Climate changes Spatial Planning (CcSP).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margo van den Brink
    • 1
  • Sander Meijerink
    • 2
  • Catrien Termeer
    • 3
  • Joyeeta Gupta
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Spatial Planning and EnvironmentUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute for Management ResearchRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Public Administration and Policy GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute for Environmental StudiesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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