Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1009–1020 | Cite as

Costs and benefits of adapting spatial planning to climate change: lessons learned from a large-scale urban development project in the Netherlands

  • Karianne de Bruin
  • Hasse Goosen
  • Ekko C. van Ierland
  • Rolf A. Groeneveld
Original Article


Climate change increases the vulnerability of low-lying coastal areas. Careful spatial planning can reduce this vulnerability, provided that decision-makers have insight into the costs and benefits of adaptation options. This paper addresses the question which adaptation options are suitable, from an economic perspective, to adapt spatial planning to climate change at a regional scale. We apply social cost–benefit analysis to assess the net benefits of adaptation options that deal with the impacts of climate change-induced extreme events. From the methods applied and results obtained, we also aim at learning lessons for assessing climate adaptation options. The case study area, the Zuidplaspolder, is a large-scale urban development project in the Netherlands. The costs as well as the primary and secondary benefits of adaptation options relating to spatial planning (e.g. flood-proof housing and adjusted infrastructure) are identified and where possible quantified. Our results show that three adaptation options are not efficient investments, as the investment costs exceed the benefits of avoided damages. When we focus on ‘climate proofing’ the total area of the Zuidplaspolder, when the costs and benefits of all the presented adaptation options are considered together, the total package has a positive net present value. The study shows that it is possible to anticipate climate change impacts and assess the costs and benefits of adjusting spatial planning. We have learned that scenario studies provide a useful tool but that decision-making under climate change uncertainty also requires insight into the probabilities of occurrence of weather extremes in the future.


Climate change Adaptation Spatial planning Social cost–benefit analysis Lessons learned 



We like to thank the editor, the guest editor and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. In addition, we would like to thank the experts that have contributed to the study: Marjolein van Eijsden, Steven de Boer, and William Veerbeek (Dura Vermeer); Andy van den Dobbelsteen, Michiel Fremouw, Elmer Rietveld, and Theo Reijs (Delft University of Technology and TNO); and Elgard van Leeuwen and Olivier Hoes (Delft University of Technology and Deltares). The ‘Hotspot Zuidplaspolder’ project was funded by the Climate changes Spatial Planning programme and the Province of Zuid-Holland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karianne de Bruin
    • 1
  • Hasse Goosen
    • 2
  • Ekko C. van Ierland
    • 3
  • Rolf A. Groeneveld
    • 3
  1. 1.CICERO, Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Alterra, Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Environmental Economics and Natural Resources GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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