Sunshine and clouds heatwave weatherMet Office

The Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute’s climate scenarios predict a doubling in the number of hours of heat stress in the Netherlands by 2050. Since 2007, the Netherlands has had a National Heat Plan (updated in 2015). It outlines the responsibilities of municipal health services and other health care organisations. As hospitals and nursing homes are obliged to provide adequate healthcare, they must implement the measures in the plan. In 2016, a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy was created after the Dutch Court of Auditors concluded in 2012 that the Delta Programme protecting against flooding failed to sufficiently address other climate risks, including those for public health. The national adaptation strategy labels heat stress as a climate impact to be tackled with urgency.

Since 2019, there is a manual for developing local heat plans. These plans, however, remain voluntary. They focus in particular on how to inform and assist the house-bound elderly. In June 2020, heat- and loneliness maps were presented for all Dutch municipalities. These show in which neighbourhoods lonely inhabitants run greater risks in case of heat stress. In addition, some Dutch cities have created heat maps that show the warmer and cooler areas, which are supposed to be used by spatial planners when preparing for new developments.

In general, the need for action to respond to heat stress is recognised by a few Dutch stakeholders, mainly by policymakers at the national level. Risks are being mapped, but more remains to be done. In particular, local governments and local healthcare providers still have to be educated and convinced to take action, as well as spatial planners. Apparent lack of urgency may derive from the absence of a clear ‘problem owner’ (Runhaar et al. 2012). In addition, there is still a lack of knowledge about the extent to which spatial adaptations reduce the heat island effect and which health gains this may bring about.