Plan B: NL2200

The nation formerly known as The Netherlands

Type Research
Year 2018 - 2020
Location The Netherlands
Size 41,543 km²

Plan B NL 2200

How will the Dutch live in 2200? Will Nijmegen become our capital instead of Amsterdam? Research shows that rising sea level is inevitable and heightening our current dike system will not be sufficient. To keep our heads above water, LOLA started working on a visionary plan B for the Netherlands in 2200. The map shows how we think we can create a healthy, sustainable way of living in our country.

Our approach is that the majority of the population and our coastline would shift to the east. Cities on mounds, satellite towns on poles and floating agriculture in a giant lagoon, all connected by bridges and waterways.

Starting point for Plan B for the Netherlands is to have a diverse set of strategies available to adapt as a country to climate change and sea-level rise. Currently raising and fortifying dikes and storm-surge barriers to increase flood risk protection seems the most obvious way forward. This strategy however does have serious technical, economical and societal consequences and limitations.

The world’s best protected delta might not be able to adapt to the extreme sea-levels that could occur when the Paris climate agreements fails to sufficiently limit global temperature rise. The failure of  the international climate change policy arena is unfortunately something that needs to be considered as likely to happen, while adapting dikes, dams and polders to climate change effects does have its limits.

Spatial visions and planning are required to develop the required range of alternative strategies to adapt to climate change. In the beginning of this century, The Netherlands had a well-developed and internationally recognized tradition of spatial planning operational. Because of decentralisation, institutional possibilities for spatial planning at the national level have however been minimized: the development of a spatial visions for the entire country was judged as not desirable and a waste of time and money during the financial crisis.

Plan B NL2200 first of all underlines the need to restore the Dutch tradition of spatial planning at a national level, in the face of adaptation to climate change and high-end sea level rise. It is a first exploration of a strategy to adapt to higher sea levels under an extreme – but plausible scenario: +2 meter in 2085, +3 meter in 2100 and +6 meter in 2200*. Dikes, dunes, dams and storm-surge barriers will not be able to handle these extreme conditions.

Plan B envisions a Netherlands without dikes. It doesn’t focus on engineering dikes and dams, or constructing gigantic landfills with fossil materials from natural landscapes. Plan B uses accelerated sea level rise to leverage the rebuilding of a new Netherlands by using the driving forces of nature.  In this future the Dutch would live on a logical location: above sea level, not below it.

Living above sea level means a shift of the coastline to the east of the country. The inhabitants of the lower parts of the country will have to move themselves and all facilities, infrastructures, and employment opportunities to the east. Along this eastern coast, the economic heart of the country will be reconstructed.

The remainders of the west coast will be maintained and strengthened to develop a marine lagoon with the protected remnants of the historic cities and villages. In accordance with their tradition of water management, the citizens of ‘Waterland’ will develop the lagoon for residential areas, fisheries, aquaculture, recreation, nature and energy.

Plan B NL2200 is not a defeat, although plan B might look alarming at first sight. It pictures a positive outlook for the future of the Netherlands, in which  the Dutch deal with water in a different way. Even when Plan A (realizing the Paris agreements) fails or proves to be not sufficiently effective, The Netherlands can continue to exist by living with water and building with nature. The Dutch might even come out stronger.

In the end Plan B is not a spatial plan, but an agenda. It a bottom-up appeal to rethink the spatial future of the Netherlands. A roadmap for the future of the Netherlands needs to be developed from a wide set of integrated strategies including spatial opportunities. This roadmap is needed not only to adapt to climate changes and sea level rise, but also to deal with nitrogen deposition, decline of biodiversity, housing, and the quality of life in our urban areas. The Netherlands has shown that is has been able to plan and build its own future. Now is the time to build on this tradition.

* De Winter, R. C., Reerink, T. J., Slangen, A., De Vries, H., Edwards, T. L., & Van De Wal, R. S. (2017). Impact of asymmetric uncertainties in ice sheet dynamics on regional sea level projections. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 17(12), 2125-2141