Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Amsterdam International Water Week, Rotterdam

“Climate resilience is the new norm. By 2050, seven out of ten people will live in cities. Those people are counting on us to prepare our cities – our urban areas – for the effects of climate change.
There’s a strong need for new knowledge. That’s why I took the initiative to establish the Global Commission on Adaptation.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Rotterdam!
The city that Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb is quite rightly proud of.
I’ve lived here for years. And I can assure you that I fully agree with him.

It’s a special honour that this year’s Amsterdam International Water Week
is being held not in Amsterdam but in Rotterdam.
A little confusing perhaps.
But it’s great to see you found your way here.

Of course, this week isn’t about Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
It’s about the importance of water. The presence of water. Something we simply cannot live without. Mostly a friend, but sometimes an enemy.

Located at the mouth of the river Maas, with the biggest port in Europe, Rotterdam is shaped by water.
The people of this city live with water every day – both to their benefit and to their detriment.

Because water helps us trade at home and around the world. It helps us grow crops. And keeps us alive.
But it’s also there to be tamed and drained for new land, to be restrained by dams and kept at bay.
It’s there to be used and controlled.
Especially now that we’re seeing and feeling the effects of climate change almost daily.
In the past year there have been many weather events that point to climate change – from the US to the Philippines, from Indonesia to Italy.

Even in the Netherlands, we’re experiencing more extreme weather. We’re used to a moderate climate. But this year we had the hottest and driest summer in 40 years, as well as the lowest water levels. We were even at risk of a freshwater shortage at one point.

Climate change is real and happening.
Last month the IPCC issued a stark warning.
Even if we achieve the Paris climate goals, sea levels will still rise.
Weather will still become more extreme.
We’ll still lose whole stretches of coastline.
And our ecosystems will still be disrupted.
It’s happening as we speak.
So it’s time for action.
More action.
More joint action.
Because it’s only through working together that we can adapt to the harsh reality of climate change.
It’s only through working together – in coalitions – that we can mitigate the effects of climate change. Or – better still – prevent them.

We know from experience that prevention helps.
By preparing for the worst, the Dutch government and business community together succeeded in limiting the impact of the extreme weather we’ve had recently.

According to UN calculations, preventing damage is four to seven times cheaper than repairing damage after a disaster.

The aim of this Water Week is to share knowledge and ideas.
Not only between government bodies but also – indeed especially – with companies, civil society organisations and knowledge institutions.
We need innovations that strike a balance between controlling and adapting, suppressing and giving room.

A lot of this comes together here in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam is one of the best examples of a robust, climate-resilient city.
With its controllable river discharges, a protected coastline, and the ambition to achieve a climate-proof port.
Not to mention its climate-neutral buildings, water plazas that collect excess rainwater, and green roofs that prevent energy waste.

Many of the ideas and initiatives that you’ll hear about today can already be seen up and running right here in Rotterdam.
Climate resilience is the new norm.
By 2050, seven out of ten people will live in cities.
Those people are counting on us to prepare our cities – our urban areas – for the effects of climate change.

There’s a strong need for new knowledge.
That’s why I took the initiative to establish the Global Commission on Adaptation.
This high-level commission is headed by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Microsoft principal founder Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva and features representatives from many countries and organisations.
The commission was officially launched last month.

It will present its first report at next year’s UN Climate Summit in New York.
A report full of recommendations and guidelines to accelerate smart climate action with smart forms of finance.
What can countries do to adapt? What needs to change in our cities, in the way we do business and produce our food?

But once those recommendations are in place, it doesn’t mean our work will be done. Implementing them is just as important.
A year of action will follow. And I’ll be delighted to invite you back to the Netherlands for the first Climate Adaptation Action Summit in 2020.

The secretariat of this global organisation has found a fitting base – here in Rotterdam – at the Global Center on Adaptation.
And, of course, it’s a floating office!
At the Global Center’s second branch in Groningen we collect all the ideas, initiatives and best practices under the motto accelerate action, focus on solution.

Like initiatives to give rivers more room to reduce the chance of flooding.
Or the river bypasses we’ve created around the cities of Nijmegen, Zwolle and Kampen. To divert water and lower water levels in the event of heavy downpours and high water.
An approach that’s attracted a lot of attention worldwide.

After all, urbanisation is a global phenomenon.
And a fast drainage of rivers is crucial.
We need innovative solutions like bypasses.
We need to create more capacity for drainage, to save lives and lower the risks of economic damage.

And we need multi-stakeholder initiatives – like innovative partnerships between public bodies, businesses and research institutions.

Partnerships set up not only to share knowledge but also to take action – together!
Partnerships that go beyond a country’s own borders.

Working with the United Nations, the European Union, international financial institutions, with everyone that has a sound understanding of climate change and water.

Let’s make the most of today and take great strides in the right direction.
Towards more knowledge sharing and more cooperation.
Towards more initiatives and more impact.
I wish you all an inspiring week!