Policy Assurance

There is no standard recipe for assurance of adaptation objectives and ambitions in policies and regulations. Adaptation can be incorporated into different sectoral policies (mainstreaming).

Sometimes a separate adaptation policy or programme is established. A separate specific adaptation policy programme can be successful but usually requires a high sense of urgency (for instance, after an event or disaster). Adaptation can also be mainstreamed in other sectoral policies. Examples of legal regulations are the municipal zoning plans and the regulations of the local water authorities. Also provincial and national governments have legal instruments, and can develop covenants and contracts with local municipalities and other parties.


Some considerations when determining a course of action:

Separate adaptation policy: an advantage of a separate adaptation policy is the explicit attention for the topic. This offers an opportunity for fully addressing the in-depth aspects of the issue. It is then a stand-alone and visible policy. The downside is that it may be unclear what the actions are for other policy domains. A risk is that other domains are not involved in defining adaptation actions. Therefore it is important to ensure that every policy domain is involved in the adaptation programme. Each domain should be addressed in an implementation paragraph of the adaptation programme. From recent experience it seems that the development of separate adaptation programmes is hampered by a limited sense of urgency. Municipalities are under pressure and adaptation is one of many priorities.

Mainstreaming in other policy domains: through mainstreaming, ownership of adaptation is shared by different policy domains. This can help implementation. Because the responsibilities are shared, there is a need for coordination and monitoring of adaptation targets and implementation success. There is also a risk that adaptation is addressed in separate domains, where opportunities for an integrated approach are missed.

Laws and regulations: Make use of laws and regulations such as municipal zoning plans and the regulations of the local water authorities. Also, provincial and national governments have legal instruments and can develop regulations, covenants and contracts with local municipalities and other parties.

  • Municipality: municipal zoning plans determine land use and they regulate where development may take place. The municipality also regulates building proposals.
  • Water authorities develop regulations for surface water and groundwater management.
  • Provinces: the provinces regulate regional aspects such as the management of connections between nature parks (ecological main structure) and water basin management
  • State level: at state level, the distribution of fresh water supplies is regulated and the state government is responsible for defining and maintaining safety levels of the main dykes. The state also has the power to directly integrate measures of national importance into zoning plans. Building regulations can also be determined by national government, for example regarding waste and water treatment.


The end result of this step is that adaptation now has a place in a separate or in multiple policies, including a plan of action and monitoring and evaluation. This provides a solid basis for the implementation of an adaptation strategy.


Examples of separate adaptation strategies are:

Examples of integrating adaptation in other policies are:

  • Arnhem (pdf, 12 MB), who have integrated adaptation in their spatial zoning plans.
  • Nijmegen has integrated adaptation targets in it’s sustainability programme
  • The city of Zwolle and the Water Authority of Waterschap Groot Salland have jointly developed an urban water management agenda for Zwolle
  • In the Westland area, the Province of Zuid-Holland has gained experience with the legal embedding of measures in the Provincial Regulations. The Water Helpdesk website provides a great deal of information on the legal instruments, for example, regarding the potential of the Water Act. The InfoMil Helpdesk provides assistance with environmental questions. Climate change has not explicitly been identified as an item here.

  • A case in point of sectoral policy is Amsterdam, whose “Rainproof” project (Pluvial flooding as a primary field of focus) addresses bottlenecks area by area.

  • The Haaglanden district has opted for a (sectoral) regional approach.

Examples of legal regulations:

  • An example is the ‘Glass City’ (Westland), where on a regional scale solutinos are sought for extreme precipitation, drought stress and salinization. Agreements are assured in provincial  regulations, and in the water management plan of Delfland (pdf, 5.4 MB) and the municipality of Westland.
  • The city of Rotterdam has defined building regulations, for example for adding flood safety targets to houses and buildings, application of non-return check valves for waste water and vegetation roofs to cope with heat stress.
  • Nijmegen has incorporated climate adaptation in the zoning plan for “De Stelt”, outlining concrete measures in the explanatory notes.



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