The vulnerability of densely populated areas, such as Flanders, to natural disasters – enhanced by climate change – is partly due to decades of spatial planning policies that have failed to take into account risks in land use zoning and in decisions on spatial development. Quite typical and striking example in Flanders of this lacking providence in policies is the almost yearly inundation of houses in residential zones, developed in the past or more recently in river beds.
While uncertainty remains on the exact impacts of climate change, this apparently unstoppable evolution has the potential to be so significant that it will challenge all our basic assumptions on the way our land should be used over the medium and long term. Abstraction of the success of mitigating short term measures, climate change will in any way influence the way in which Flemish society organises its use of land and space. Historically grown spatial patterns, that often are products of centuries of physical and/or societal evolution, will be affected.
Instead of closing our eyes – as was done in the past – it is time to develop strategies to be able to anticipate to possible risks. For example, all investment in e.g. new urban areas, transport infrastructure and agriculture will have a long lasting impact on Flemish land use. The argument is to assess these investments now and to investigate how to make them climate proof so they can withstand possible negative effects of climate change.
The scientific objectives of the research project can be defined as:
- a qualitative exploration through research by design of possible planning concepts for a more adaptive approach of changes in spatial structures as a result of climate change;
- a scientific evaluation and appreciation of existing planning policy instruments and public governance mechanisms in relation to the implementation of spatial adaptation strategies in relation to climate change.
Contact information: Dr Laurens Bouwer