In 2025 the majority of the world population will live in flood prone delta cities. Delta City Rotterdam, with one of the biggest ports in the world, is dealing with the consequences of climate change in a very pro-active and smart way, turning challenges into opportunities. The RCP Rotterdam Climate Proof program aims at making the city completely climate resilient by 2025, by building multifunctional flood protection and innovative water storage for urban drain water. But also by kicking-off a Rotterdam Adaptation Strategy RAS, by using new smart technologies like Apps and serious gaming, and by redeveloping and revitalizing its old city ports areas with attractive waterfronts. At these waterfronts, where education of future generations is combined with innovative and sustainable development of businesses, best practices are showcased to make the city more attractive, to add economic value and to create resilient communities. This knowledge and experience is shared with other delta and coastal cities in the world, in the ‘Connecting Delta Cities’ global network, and with the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities initiative. This article explains that dealing with climate change in a pro-active and smart way creates opportunities for attractive, resilient and economically strong delta cities of the future.

INTRODUCTION

Right now already more than half of the world population lives in cities, and a growing part of that urban population of our planet will live in delta cities. It is expected that more than two thirds of the world's large cities will be vulnerable to rising sea levels and climate change with millions of people being exposed to the risk of extreme floods and storms, as more people move towards urban delta areas and capital is continuously invested in ports, industrial centres, and financial businesses in flood-prone areas.

All delta cities face more or less the same risks. Katrina, Sandy and other recent natural disasters operated like wake up calls and created a growing awareness of the impacts and consequences of climate change. The impact of climate change in these areas will increase due to:

  • Sea level rise

  • Increase of peak river discharges & storms

  • Land subsidence in delta areas

  • Increase of population & economical activities

The city of Rotterdam, one of the biggest ports in the world, with its beautiful waterfront location is situated in the heart of the Dutch Delta (Figure 1).
Figure 1

Rotterdam with its waterfront location (image Arnoud Molenaar).

Figure 1

Rotterdam with its waterfront location (image Arnoud Molenaar).

The city is largely below sea level (up to almost 7 meter) and the city is protected against the sea by an intelligent and extensive system of dikes, dams, barriers and gates: The famous Dutch Delta Works, established after the disastrous 1953 floods.

ROTTERDAM CLIMATE PROOF

The consequences of climate change will also be felt in Rotterdam, just like in all delta and coastal cities around the world (Aerts et al. 2012). Rainfall will become more erratic and maximum rainfall intensities will increase, presenting the city with the challenge of excess rain water or storm water flooding as well as longer and more frequent drought spells. Rotterdam will also be confronted with rising sea levels, increased frequency and magnitude of storms and more frequent exceptionally high or low river levels and flows. Furthermore, the temperature in the city will rise, and heat stress will affect the livability of the city and have an impact on an increasing number of citizens (Aerts et al. 2012).

In order to deal in a pro-active way with the challenges of climate change, and consider them as an opportunity rather than a threat, the City of Rotterdam has set up the RCP: the Rotterdam Climate Proof Program. The ambition of RCP is to make Rotterdam completely climate resilient by 2025. First priority for RCP is the safety of the city. The existing urban dikes, partly crossing through the heart of the city will be strengthened and raised were necessary, often in a very innovative and creative way, for instance with the development of ‘staircase’ dikes as well as other multifunctional flood protection like the ‘Dakpark’ or Roof Park (Figure 2).
Figure 2

Multifunctional flood protection ‘Dakpark’ (image Arnoud Molenaar).

Figure 2

Multifunctional flood protection ‘Dakpark’ (image Arnoud Molenaar).

The Dakpark or Roof Park is a combination of a flood protection structure, a building with shops, a parking garage and other facilities, with a green park on the roof, combining several urban, ecological and resiliency functions, optimizing the use of the precious urban space. Another priority is the implementation of innovative water storage for urban drain water, including the construction of green roofs and water plazas, like the Benthemplein water plaza (Figure 3): an attractive urban plaza under dry conditions, where excess storm water can be temporary stored during heavy rainfall events, before returning to the drainage system. Also this water plaza with its multiple use optimizes the use of precious urban space.
Figure 3

Water plaza Benthemplein (image Arnoud Molenaar).

Figure 3

Water plaza Benthemplein (image Arnoud Molenaar).

Overall, the objective of the RCP program is to create extra opportunities to make Rotterdam a more attractive city to live, work, relax and invest. This paper gives an update of Rotterdam's efforts and describes practical cases on new developed innovative tools and strategies to make Rotterdam a smarter, safer and more resilient and attractive delta city in the future. Other delta and coastal cities challenged by climate change, can benefit from Rotterdam's experiences and learn from its best practices.

ATTRACTIVE CITY AND ADDED ECONOMIC VALUE

Responding adequately to climate change will enable to keep the city safe, resilient, accessible, and attractive, now as well as in the future. This ambition is based on four guiding principles:

  • Rotterdam will develop into and present itself on a national and international level as a leading center for water knowledge, climate change expertise and city resiliency.

  • Investments will enhance the attractiveness of the city for residents, companies, and knowledge institutes.

  • Innovations and knowledge are developed, implemented, and marketed as an export product.

  • Innovative applications in the area of climate adaptation, city resiliency and water management, like the construction of green roofs, water plazas and floating buildings, will make the city more attractive as well as provide additional economic incentives.

The emphasis is on projects that will strengthen Rotterdam's profile as a leading water and resiliency city. Collaboration is key in this respect. Knowledge institutes and businesses use Rotterdam as a testing and demonstration ground for the challenging international climate adaptation issues of our time. As the global demand for knowledge and solutions in the area of climate change adaptation is growing, Rotterdam has imperative reasons to highlight its qualities as a leading water and resiliency city on an international level.

Rotterdam Climate Proof connects water with opportunities. Adaptation to climate change is more than just a necessity for Rotterdam. Perhaps even more importantly, it offers economic opportunities. In recent years Rotterdam already is harvesting the benefits from this approach. New partnerships and coalitions have been set up helping to start and finance pilots in the city. Nowadays 20–25 delegations visit the city every year to experience the Rotterdam approach on climate adaptation and resiliency. This is creating new business, jobs and research programs. Also the Peer City status Rotterdam had within the European Adaptive City Project as well as the recently acquired status as a 100 Rockefeller Foundation Resilient City, with an appointed CRO (Chief Resiliency Officer) contribute to this.

RAS: THE ROTTERDAM ADAPTATION STRATEGY

The aim of the RAS or Rotterdam Adaptation Strategy is to contribute to making Rotterdam climate proof by developing and setting the requeired adaptation rules and guidelines in the most smart, focused and cost effective way. The RAS is not an implementation plan, but provides a framework, establishes starting points and clarifies Rotterdam's ambitions and goals to become a climate resilient city. The climate effects acknowledged in the strategy consist of extremes in river levels, the rising sea level, the increase of cloudbursts, more erratic rainfall and higher rainfall intensities, longer drought spells and higher average and extreme temperatures. The following objectives have been set for he RAS:

  • The city and the port are protected against flooding

  • Rotterdam is a comfortable, livable and attractive city

  • Rotterdam is an accessible port city facing minimal risk of disruption

  • The city and its residents are affected as little as possible by a lack or surplus of precipitation

  • The residents and communities of Rotterdam are aware of the consequences of climate change and know what they can do themselves to adapt

  • Climate adaptation measures strengthen the city economically and enhance its leading delta city image.

The Rotterdam Adaptation Strategy will be incorporated in municipal planning processes and maintenance programs. Rotterdam wants to support the implementation and to monitor the progress by means of smart and adequate tools and instruments. A number of instruments have already been developed, like the Rotterdam Climate Societal Cost Benefit Analysis and the Rotterdam Climate Game; others will be developed in consultation with the respective communities, stakeholders and implementation partners.

CDC CONNECTING DELTA CITIES

International exchange of knowledge as well as communication with other delta cities plays an important role in the Rotterdam climate adaptation strategy. Therefore Rotterdam, as an affiliate member of the C40 initiative, took the lead in the ‘Connecting Delta Cities’ initiative (Aerts et al. 2009, Dircke & Molenaar 2010a). The C40 has an important role in stimulating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in cities. In Tokyo, in October 2008, a C40 meeting on the topic of climate adaptation officially adopted the Initiative Connecting Delta Cities (CDC) put forward by the city of Rotterdam. It was addressed as ‘Joint Action 8: Climate Adaptation Connecting Delta Cities’.

C40 agreed that the network should (initially) consist of a small number of cities that are frontrunners in climate adaptation.

The objective was to develop a network of delta cities active in the field of climate change related spatial development, water management, and adaptation, in order to exchange knowledge on climate adaptation strategies and share best practices that can support cities in developing their adaptation strategies. Connecting Delta Cities combines the knowledge, experience and connections of Rotterdam, Tokyo, Jakarta, Hong Kong, New York, New Orleans, London, Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne and other cities (Dircke & Molenaar 2010a). Delta cities can learn from each other, and an extending and well operating network of knowledge driven delta cities is one of the best answers to cope with the challenges of climate and turn them into opportunities.

ROTTERDAM SMART DELTA CITY

Rotterdam is currently developing innovative technologies to become a smart delta city of the future. Integration of IT technology into the most modern and innovative adaptive flood control science and development is one of the tools (Dircke et al. 2010b). A serious game for the city quarter of Feijenoord was developed, in cooperation with several public and private parties. A Delta City App was developed that can be downloaded by citizens and visitors on their smartphones to explore what Rotterdam as a delta city has to offer.

‘Flood Control 2015’, a public private initiative used the city as a breeding ground for the development of a serious game dealing with urban planning and climate change.

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences at the RDM Campus was chosen as a starting point for developing an education program (Dircke et al. 2010b). At the RDM Campus, a so called ‘I-lab’ was developed, where scientists, software developers and engineers of the Flood Control 2015 consortium worked together with students and teachers on creating innovative knowledge and product development in an interactive learning environment – an innovation-lab (I-lab). This setup was chosen after consulting the business sector, who would like to ask practical questions of the students and who, in the future, would like to employ enterprising, environmentally-aware and analytically-strong young flood control professionals. In the I-lab, students were challenged to independently research a question that is difficult to solve in practice and to develop a (commercial) product as a solution. The initiation point was the question how communication and decision-making between different government institutes active in the field of water management and flood risk could be improved during a flood.

To answer this question, the students developed the Flood Control Game. The game is used for practical training and for education. A teaching package has also been developed for senior students. The package contains basic theoretical knowledge of high water/high tide, safety and risk management. In total, about one hundred students already used the package.

RDM CAMPUS

An important opportunity in dealing pro-actively with climate change lies in the redevelopment of the former port areas into revitalized, sustainable and climate resilient areas for living, working, education and recreation, right in the heart of the city centre. The Rotterdam City Ports project aims at redevelopment of almost 4.000 acres of old port areas. The City Ports project is closely connected to the RCP objectives, as one of the major drivers for redevelopment of the old port areas will be knowledge development and business development in the field of water, climate change adaptation and sustainability. This knowledge development is essential to learn how to deal with climate change in the best way, how to develop best practices and how to educate the future generations of water and climate resiliency managers and officials. One of the first projects that was realized was the RDM Campus, an initiative of the Rotterdam University, the City of Rotterdam, the Rotterdam Port Authority and several other public and private partners (Figure 4).
Figure 4

RDM Campus (Image Hans Elbers/Fotovlieger).

Figure 4

RDM Campus (Image Hans Elbers/Fotovlieger).

RDM Campus acts a Center of Expertise for education, co-creation and shared research in the middle of the City Ports areas on the old former dry dock complex of the RDM. RDM used to stand for Rotterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij (Rotterdam Dry dock Company), but it now stands for Research, Design, and Manufacturing.

Education & research are connected to businesses and public & private & knowledge institutions. Students and researchers work together in so called innovation teams and communities of practice on climate change issues with companies and public partners to achieve a resilient port and city. Some examples of ongoing research projects at the RDM Campus:
  • The floating pavilion (Figure 5) is the forerunner of future floating communities in Rotterdam. It is developed and constructed on the campus in an innovation team/community of practice. Students, researchers and employees of different companies did research and worked together to develop the floating pavilion in co-production. The pavilion is climate change resilient, sustainable and fully removable. It functions as a Living Showcase for Dutch water knowledge, as front portal to the Dutch water expertise and as a meeting place for delegations, programs and debates.

  • Aquadocks is a test facility for floating infrastructure, buildings, urban public space & green infrastructure. The floating pavilion combined with Aquadocks is a start towards a floating city.

  • Concept House Village is a testing facility and living lab for sustainable and affordable housing, as part of a European concept. Innovative dwelling concepts are developed, built, tested and after 5 years, taken apart for re-use. Potential users and local communities are involved in development and testing of innovations. Prototype 1 is operational and focusses on material use and energy neutrality in newly built multi-family concepts. Another 3 concept houses were built in 2013 with focus on retrofit, bio based materials and locally re-use of products and materials. In total more than 50 companies are involved within this project.

Figure 5

Floating pavilion at night (image Arnoud Molenaar).

Figure 5

Floating pavilion at night (image Arnoud Molenaar).

CONCLUSIONS

Rotterdam will continue to work on climate resiliency and further research to mitigate the impact of climate change on the City. Rotterdam will continue to aim at being recognized as an innovative centre for water management and climate change adaptation, a truly smart delta city, positioning the Netherlands as a leading Global Water Nation, with Rotterdam as the perfect showcase in the heart of the Dutch Urban Delta: an inspiring example for delta cities and urban delta's worldwide.

The international collaboration with other delta cities and international organizations and institutions like the Rockefeller Foundation will be continued, intensified and extended, developing new climate adaptation strategies and creating new opportunities for businesses and knowledge institutions in and around Rotterdam. Rotterdam will proof that dealing with climate change in a pro-active and smart way creates opportunities for an attractive, resilient and economically strong delta city of the future (Molenaar et al. 2013).

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