Groningen uses ladder of priorities for adaptation strategy

The municipality of Groningen aims to be climate-proof by 2050. To achieve this, the municipality has set down an adaptation strategy, underpinned by the stress test and a ladder of priorities. This page sets out how it has gone about this strategy and what it entails.

What has prompted the strategy?

One of the main reasons for drawing up an adaptation strategy was that the municipality of Groningen needed to set down new plans for water, the sewer system, and greenery. All these sectors indicated that climate adaptation should be integrated into the plans. This also ensues from the new Environment Act, which will come into effect in 2022. This Act integrates the policies and plans of all the sectors involved in the physical environment. Adaptation must be accommodated in many of these sectors. The adaptation strategy helps to achieve this.

Healthy, Green, Happy Groningen Coalition Agreement

Drawing up an adaptation strategy is one of the seven ambitions of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. The adaptation strategy of the municipality of Groningen is an element of the Healthy, Green, Happy Groningen Coalition Agreement (2019). One of the reasons for incorporating climate adaptation into this agreement was a project plan from 2018, in which the Municipal Executive had already placed climate adaptation and greening on the agenda.

How has Groningen drawn up the strategy?

The stress test conducted by the municipality of Groningen constitutes the basis for the strategy. However, the stress test could not be used as-is to formulate goals for the strategy. The municipality first needed to determine which climate effects were to be given priority. In 2019, therefore, the municipality started to assess all the effects emerging from the stress test, within the context of the Groningen risk dialogue. To this end, the municipality first set down “situation descriptions” for all the effects. Thereupon, the descriptions were supplemented and assessed by a comprehensive group of representatives of the municipality, the province, the two district water boards in the municipality, the community health service, and the Security Region. The working sessions with all the parties involved generated a ladder of priorities. With this ladder, the municipality reassessed all the effects from the stress test and classed them into one of the following three categories:

  • Urgent
  • Undesirable
  • Acceptable

The priorities enabled the municipality to formulate the goals to be achieved in order to become climate-proof. These goals were used as the basis for the strategy.

What do the stress test and the risk dialogue in Groningen involve?

In 2018, the municipality embarked on stress tests covering the municipal territory. The stress tests were conducted in accordance with the sector-based approach of the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS). To this end, the main sectors in the municipality were first listed. They are: Water and Spatial Planning; Nature; Agriculture; Infrastructure; Energy and IT; Health/Liveability; Leisure Activities; and Security. In collaboration with stakeholders, the municipality has studied the impact of climate change on these sectors. This has generated an overview of potential threats and opportunities for each sector.

The Groningen risk dialogue comprises several elements. Groningen already launched the dialogue during the stress test, when the municipality involved the sectors to map out the climate effects. The municipality subsequently continued the dialogue in order to prioritise the effects. The first step involved internal considerations; for the second step, strategic partners were invited to weigh in.

What are the goals of the strategy?

The municipality of Groningen aims to be climate-proof by 2050. To achieve this ambition, the municipality has formulated four goals:

  1. Prevent waterlogging;
  2. Prevent and mitigate heat stress;
  3. Enhance spatial quality;
  4. Provide additional protection for vulnerable groups.

How has the municipality determined its ambition?

The municipality has examined the costs and benefits of three potential ambitions: climate-proof by 2035, climate-proof by 2050, and climate-proof by 2080. This has generated a rough analysis of the investment expenditure and the yield of the measures entailed in the three ambitions. Based on the cost-benefit analysis, the municipality has opted for the ambition of being climate-proof by 2050. This ambition is viable and ties in with the ambition of the Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation.

What does the strategy involve?

The municipality has drawn up its adaptation strategy on the basis of the priorities and goals. The strategy comprises four elements:

  1. The municipality is responsible for the design of public space, but the bulk of the municipal territory is owned by other parties. For that reason, collaboration with residents and entrepreneurs is essential. The municipality plays a promotional and facilitating role in such collaboration;
  2. Integrated approach: in any modification to public space, the municipality not only focuses on climate adaptation, but also considers such other taskings as health, security, and sustainability;
  3. Future-oriented approach: any measures that the municipality is implementing serve to prepare for the future and the changing climate;
  4. Setting a good example: the municipality aims to set a good example, not only for its residents and entrepreneurs, but also in the purview of parties across the globe. The municipality aims to develop into a pioneer in the field of climate adaptation. With the Global Centre on Adaptation, Groningen already harbours a unique institution within its municipal borders.

In addition, the municipality has set down the role it wants to assume in all the situations that have been addressed in the risk dialogue. The municipality distinguishes five roles:

  1. Promotion: the municipality will be raising awareness through communication;
  2. Collaboration: the municipality will actively enter into a dialogue with other parties;
  3. Facilitation: the municipality will be supporting societal initiatives, e.g., through grants;
  4. Direction: the municipality will either be taking public space measures or commission further research;
  5. Regulation: the municipality will set down frameworks in its Environmental Vision, or will enforce measures through, e.g., decrees.

Has an implementation agenda been drawn up?

Based on the strategy, the municipality has also drawn up an implementation strategy.

Lessons to be learned

Joining forces with various parties is vitally important when working on an adaptation strategy. Two key lessons to be learned from the municipality of Groningen:

  • All the important sectors have been addressed in the stress test, which facilitated integrated collaboration between people from different disciplines on the adaptation strategy;
  • It is good to gather people from different disciplines in order to discuss the climate effects with one another. This enables a more accurate assessment of the stress test results.

Contact person

M. Schuit
Gemeente Groningen

Project type
Adaptation plan/strategy
Gemeente Groningen
Drought, Heat, Urban flooding, Waterlogging