With our planet projected to see its climate warm up significantly above pre-industrial levels, the need to look beyond just mitigating the extent of climate change is rapidly growing.
As the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015 acknowledged clearly, countries and communities around the world will need to begin focussing their efforts and resources not just on mitigation but also on adapting to many unavoidable consequences of long-lasting changes in the atmosphere.
Governments and business communities will have to prepare for rising sea levels and increasingly frequent severe weather events such as droughts, heat waves, wildfires, storms, heavy precipitation and flooding – yet climate change risks extend far beyond those direct weather effects.
Indirectly, climate change will set off multi-layered, interacting disruptions with far-reaching consequences in a range of areas such as agriculture, finance, governance, spatial planning, public health, demographics, security, infrastructure, biodiversity and (social) economics.
Increasing their resilience to all those complex changes will present major challenges to countries and communities all over the world. That will be the case for rich, well developed countries, but it will be especially true for many low and middle income countries hit particularly hard by effects of climate change. It has been projected that investments in well thought-out climate change adaptation projects, based on solid research, will involve more than one hundred billion US dollars per year from 2020 onward.
A multidisciplinary challenge for providers of knowledge and expertise
Massive global efforts and investments towards climate change adaptation will require strong guidance from science. Only by applying sound evidence and by establishing and spreading best practices will the world be able to maximize the effect of its collective efforts.
The knowledge community needs to ready itself for this momentous task.
It must ensure that governments, businesses and NGOs from all over the world, including those in low- and middle-income countries, will get access to what they need: policy advice based on the best available knowledge, not from separate individual disciplines, but from the totality of what engineering and the natural and social sciences have to offer.
Knowledge providers will have to meet the demand by providing multisectoral, integrated, practical advice, knowledge and expertise.
Dutch knowledge providers rising to the challenge
The Netherlands, a prosperous river delta economy major parts of which lie below even current sea levels, is well known for its ability to adapt to threats of changing weather patterns, flooding and droughts. For centuries, the country has managed its land and its water resources, carefully balancing the needs of population centres, infrastructures, industries, agriculture and recreation, among others.
For the same reason, the country has been driven to studying and preparing for climate change. Those efforts have produced a long list of internationally well respected public and private Dutch knowledge players, all with strong track records in providing expert advice on climate change adaptation. Solutions include, for example, scenario studies, weather and flooding projections and other innovative tools that have been applied successfully in the Netherlands and in the rest of the world.
Much of the work so far, however, has moved along separate lines of individual sectors and disciplines. With climate change adaptation challenges becoming bigger and more complex, however, mono-sectoral approaches are reaching their limits. Governments and communities face challenges that affect not just one aspect of their societies but a great many at the same time, and some of those aspects will interact with each other.
For example, effective adaptations to heavy rainfall may turn out beneficial for governments and property owners but may increase public health risks of infectious diseases; others might help urban regions but harm agricultural communities and therefore their food security.
Societies and governments all over the world need practical answers to complex questions on how best to deal with these interacting factors. Often they also need help in strengthening their institutional governance and in building local capacities to better meet future challenges themselves.
A need for multisectoral, integral, practical approaches
The Netherlands Consortium on Climate Change Adaptation (CCCA), encompassing both public and private organizations, brings together a broad coalition of Dutch knowledge players. The consortium’s founders recognized the need to take their work to a next, more integrated level.
Through the consortium, their unique aim will be to begin providing multisectoral, integrated, demand-driven knowledge and expertise on climate change adaptation.
By bringing together knowledge and proven expertise from a spectrum of sectors and disciplines, CCCA will be able to provide more integral, more multisectoral, more practical and hence more effective approaches to the challenges that countries, regions, cities and business communities face.
Consortium members, associated partners and international networks
The list of founding consortium members includes the Benelux branch of Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership on climate change, Climate-KIC, which is part of the EU’s European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT). It also includes leading public and private Dutch research and knowledge centres in the field such as KNMI, KWR, RIVM, NIOZ, Utrecht University and the University of Twente. Members contribute in cash or in kind to the work of the consortium, and they take part in its governance.
The consortium also has associated partners. They are key public and private knowledge players who are very relevant to the consortium’s work. They include large organizations such as TNO, Sweco Nederland, and Rabobank, as well as smaller players such as Climate Adaptation Services, HydroLogic, FutureWater, and Weather Impact. Public bodies such as De Stichtse Rijnlanden (one of the Netherlands’ regional water authorities) and the city and province of Utrecht have already shown considerable interest in the consortium’s work.
CCCA members and associated partners possess state-of-the-art expertise that encompasses a broad spectrum of knowledge that is relevant to climate change adaptation. It ranges, for example, from modelling and scenario building to governance and finance, from water management to public health, and from extreme weather patterns to land and water use in agriculture.
In the future, the list of members and associated partners will only grow.
Even now, the consortium’s expertise is not limited to its members and partners; all of them are part of extensive European and global collaborations and networks—in effect the consortium’s third layer of expertise. Where additional knowledge of expertise is needed for individual projects, the consortium will be able to reach into those networks to fill any blanks.
A flying start: seed funding for a Consortium field office
In 2017, CCCA’s seven founding members will give the consortium a flying start by providing the resources for initial infrastructure in the form of a ‘field office’. This office will be manned by dedicated knowledge brokers tasked with collecting knowledge requests and setting up the multisectoral project teams that will be needed to provide the appropriate answers.
The field office, in other words, will in part serve as a central, easy point of access for requests for knowledge and expertise. Those requests may come from outside, from ‘clients’ anywhere in the world, but they may also come from consortium members or partners who recognize that requests addressed to them actually require a broader, more integrated, multisectoral response.
Field office tasks will be worked out in more detail, but follow-up steps could include, for example, bringing together a project team with all relevant expertises, and then setting up and facilitating a multi-sectoral project. Project work plans and budgets should lay out not just the contributions of individual consortium members or partners, but also allocate the task of integrating the knowledge and package it into a single, practical end product.
The consortium may decide to allocate at least a certain percentage of project funding to these quintessential tasks.
The field office will be hosted by Utrecht University, the consortium’s coordinator. The founding members have committed to provide the field office with seed funding that will ensure staffing levels leading up to 5 fte until 2021. In coming years the consortium may add new members, at which point the field office could grow as well.