Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation launch event, UN Climate Change Conference (Bula Zone), Bonn, 14 November 2017, 15.00-15.45

“This centre must become the beating heart of a growing international network in one common goal: to adapt to a changing climate and to make haste in doing so.”
Dat zegt de minister vanmiddag in Bonn bij de lancering van het Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA), in de volksmond ‘klimaatcentrum’.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Partners in this promising new Global Centre,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today.

Only three weeks ago, I joined the new Dutch government as the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management. Launching the Global Centre is my first international performance!

That’s more than a coincidence. It shows the importance we place on putting climate adaption at the heart of what we do. And I’m very proud to be one of the founding partners of this Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation.

In the Netherlands − where three quarters of the land is at risk of flooding − climate adaptation is nothing new to us. In fact, we can’t live without it. It’s in our DNA.

But sometimes I’m still stunned by the inventiveness of my fellow citizens. I live in Rotterdam, a city at the forefront of adaptation planning. A city where − as we speak − they’re building a floating farm. With room for 6,000 chickens and 40 cows.

One political party was concerned about the cows’ health. ‘Do they get seasick?,’ they asked. Well, some research was done and apparently, they don’t! They can produce milk on water. The floating farm will be ready next year.

I like this. We can learn a lot from the spirit of these innovators. The spirit of experimenting, innovating and learning by doing.

There are many more examples of adaptation. Like the mangroves being replanted along the coast of Indonesia. Or the way the World Meteorological Organization is using big data to inform African farmers by text message when to plant and when to harvest their crops.

All these examples, all this knowledge is worth spreading all over the world. And that’s exactly what the Global Centre will do.

The urgency is clear. The Paris summit was much more than just a global commitment to fight climate change.

It also marked the final breakthrough in establishing the importance of climate resilience. For the first time in global climate talks, adaptation was given the recognition it deserves.

This sends out an important political message: that adapting to climate change is just as important as fighting it. Preparedness pays off! It saves lives and assets, every day, all over the world.

That’s why this centre is so relevant.

As Ms Espinosa said at the opening ceremony of this conference: ‘We no longer have the luxury of time. We must act now’.

This centre must become the beating heart of a growing international network that links the global South and the global North in one common goal: to adapt to a changing climate and to make haste in doing so.

It’s amazing what can be done in less than a year!

The initial idea of establishing a centre of excellence formed around the Adaptation Futures 2016 conference, held in Rotterdam.

That conference showed that − if we want to live up to the adaptation provisions in the Paris Agreement − we need to engage all relevant stakeholders and manage our adaptation knowledge more effectively.

UN Environment, NIES Japan and my own country, the Netherlands, joined forces and took the initiative to establish this centre.

Together, we’ve formed partnerships with global organisations, NGOs, governments, financial institutions, knowledge institutions and businesses.

An unbelievable amount of preparation work has been done by eight people.

In nine months they have managed to create this Global Centre. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication!

The work of the Global Centre can start right away, thanks to the cities of Rotterdam and Groningen, who are providing two fantastic landmark offices.

In Rotterdam the centre will be housed in a floating building. [Although there won’t be any cows!]

And thanks to the many partners who are making a big contribution to the centre’s work, we can really hit the ground running.

One example is the Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities project.

Here, the principles from the well-known Rebuild by Design project in New York are being used to develop climate-resilient investment opportunities in three Asian cities.

The project is a joint effort between the Global Centre, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Henk Ovink.

Another major area of work focuses on defining what it takes to create a climate-resilient financial sector.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is taking the lead in a joint project, aimed at highlighting physical climate risk and opportunities for the financial sector.

My message is this: there is an urgent need to gain a better understanding of risks and opportunities so that we can better adapt and innovate towards a more resilient future. And there’s a considerable need for knowledge management too.

I’m convinced that the Global Centre will respond to this need. By developing new insights, connecting public and private sector experts, and by highlighting best practices for effective climate risk management.

The Paris Agreement sets out what needs to be done on climate adaptation. That’s exactly what we’re committed to doing.

And the Global Centre will help us do it better and faster. People, cities, countries and companies will benefit.

I wish you all every success and look forward to hearing about your progress.

Thank you.