Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, upon the announcement of the Global Commission on Adaptation

Dear Mr Alderman / Ms Alderwoman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would also like to welcome you all to Rotterdam!
What a wonderful location this is.
Of course, I am thrilled about a building in the shape of a football.
But I am even more thrilled about the climate resilience of this design.
No matter how high the water rises or how low it falls, this building won’t falter.

It is one of the many examples of how we can adapt to the climate.
And Rotterdam features many such examples. Take water plazas, green rooftops. Rotterdam even features the largest rooftop park in the whole of Europe!  
Rotterdam will have floating houses and a floating park here in the Rijnhaven port.
It is for a good reason that Rotterdam serves as one of the operating bases of the International Climate Adaptation Centre.
I would like to thank the municipal authorities wholeheartedly for their hospitality and for providing the office space!
It is wonderful to, in a minute, drive in the first post of the jetty on which the new floating office will be docked.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2017, it was a great honour and a unique opportunity to initiate the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation.
In November 2017, the Centre commenced its operations.
Leading knowledge institutes, businesses, NGOs, local and national governments have joined forces in order to substantiate the second paragraph of the Paris climate agreement.

In Paris, the focus was on mitigation, averting climate change by reducing CO2 emissions. But – for the first time – the focus was also on climate adaptation.
An essential extension, as far as I am concerned.
Because climate change is not something that will take place in the distant future: it is already well underway.
This summer, the whole of Europe was in the grip of drought.
The summer featured the hurricanes in the Caribbean, sadly culminating in enormous damage on the island of Sint Maarten in particular, but also on the islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba.

India was flooded, California was hit by huge forest fires, Japan struggled with extreme downpours, followed by a heatwave.
Climate change affects us all.
But we cannot wait for measures aimed at combating climate change to take effect.
We are in trouble now, so we must take action now.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Global Centre on Adaptation, as its name will be from now on, is taking action.

Yet one thing was still missing.
For let’s be fair, you haven’t heard much about the Climate Adaptation Centre yet.
That is why this is an important day. Or perhaps I should say: 16 October is an important day!
Because that is when – and now I have some news for you! – the Global Commission on Adaptation will take up its duties.  
This spring, I took the initiative of gathering together an international climate adaptation commission.
I am very pleased that three authoritative individuals have accepted my invitation to lead this Commission.

They are:

  • Former UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-Moon!
  • The founder of the largest software company in the world, Mr Bill Gates!
  • And the third one, the CEO of the World Bank, Ms Kristalina Georgieva!

Like me, they underscore the importance of climate adaptation, but especially the urgency of taking action.
I am honoured that they are willing to pioneer this Global Commission on Adaptation. On Tuesday 16 October – please mark the date on your calendar – the Commission will be launched during a festive event in The Hague, to be attended by Mr Ban Ki-Moon.
We will then also introduce the other members of the Commission who will be championing this goal.
International leaders who will be spreading the message – the urgency of climate adaptation – across the globe.
They will sit on the Commission for two years.

Two years to manifest the urgency of climate adaptation. Two years to give impetus to action and to focus on solutions.
In September 2019, at the UN climate summit in New York, the Global Commission on Adaptation will present its report to the UN Secretary-General, Mr Guterres.
A report featuring a global action agenda to really take adaptation measures to the next level: how can countries adapt? What needs to change in cities, infrastructure, industrial processes, food production?
Prevention is better than cure.

If we only respond and wait for a disaster to occur before setting to work, we will have a much higher price to pay. No pain, no gain.
And I haven’t even mentioned the victims yet. This is why it is important for the Commission to embark on an action plan!  
Because especially the second year is a year of action, to carry out the plans and make the world a safer place. With public and private money, for rich and poor countries, combating both an excess of water and water shortages.

And the Centre, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Centre for which we have gathered here today, will play a pivotal role as the Commission secretariat and the coordinator of this global action agenda: Accelerating action, focusing on solutions. It is my pleasure to introduce to you the new CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, Mr Patrick Verkooijen.

I wish all those involved every success and I hope to see all of you on 16 October.

Thank you very much.