Arnhem preparations for climate change consequences include less asphalt, more greenery

Aerial photo of Arnhem in July 2019
Aerial photo of Arnhem in July 2019dutchsceneryDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The municipality of Arnhem on Wednesday presented its plan to deal with the consequences of climate change. A different, greener layout must ensure that Arnhem can handle increasingly extreme weather, ranging from droughts to flooding, Trouw reports.

Central to the plan is giving more space for nature. Ten percent of the city's asphalt must give way for plants or grass. This will allow the soil to absorb rainfall better, as well as ensuring that heat lingers less. More than 10 percent asphalt removal is not possible, because Arnhem does not want to hinder accessibility, alderman Cathelijne Bouwkamp said to the newspaper.

The municipality does not have to remove any full motorways to achieve sufficient asphalt removal, she added. "We are going to clean up insertion lanes and road sections, where according to our research very few cars drive." The municipality is currently investigating whether the removed asphalt can be recycled or resold. 

Arnhem will be constructing shadow routes and cooling areas near squares and shopping centers, with ponds and roofs. Trees will also be given more space. And industrial areas, where asphalt dominates, will be redesigned. 

The city also hopes that residents will come up with their own proposals to collect rainwater or install green roofs, Bouwkamp said. Arnhem will encourage this with a subsidy fund. People decide for themselves what their backyards look like, the alderman said, but she hopes that they will also remove tiles in favor of grass or plants so that rain water can more easily be absorbed. This can help prevent sewer flooding. 

Arnhem will also continue to invest in gas-free houses, windmills and solar parks in order to prevent further harm to the climate. "Both adaption to climate change and combating it are necessary," climate expert Marjolein Pijpers-Van Esch of Delft University of Technology said to Trouw. "The sooner we stop using fossil energy, the less we need to protect our living environment from extreme weather."

Other Dutch cities and towns are also working on ideas to make their public space more climate proof, but there are few to no actual plans, Pijpers-Van Esch said. "Most municipalities are still not doing enough to prepare for a more extreme weather forecast," she said. "They still do too little, knowledge is often lacking."

That will have to change soon, because all municipalities will have to complete a "climate stress test" - a test to show which streets are vulnerable to flooding, heat and subsidence caused by climate change - by the end of this year, according to the government's delta plan.