ICLEI European Secretariat

ICLEI European Secretariat


Member in the Spotlight

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

With over 600,000 residents the City of Rotterdam is the second most populated urban area in the Netherlands. The city is located in a delta of the Rhine and Meuse rivers and is globally renowned for its bustling shipping port, which is the busiest in Europe. The Dutch city is a key transportation gateway for the continent.

Rotterdam is surrounded by water on all sides and around 90 percent of the city is below sea level (with some areas up to five to six metres below). Not surprisingly, the city is greatly affected by the water-related consequences of climate change, and has taken a series of innovative measures to tackle the situation.

Rotterdam represents a city committed to sustainability that is creatively dealing with climate based challenges for the benefit of its citizens. The City of Rotterdam, the Port Authority, the employers’ association Deltalinqs and Environmental Protection Agency DCMR founded the Rotterdam Climate Initiative in 2007, a movement in which government, companies, knowledge institutions and citizens collaborate to achieve a fifty percent CO₂ reduction by 2025 and fully adapt to climate change by 2025 whilst stimulating the economy.

Sustainablity focus: Adapting to climate change challenges

In the face of increasingly frequent small-scale flooding, sea level rise, higher rainfall and rising temperatures, Rotterdam developed a comprehensive adaptation strategy to ensure the city is 100 percent resilient to the impacts of climate change. Titled Rotterdam Climate Proof, the strategy is based on four separate pillars.

The first pillar states that Rotterdam will develop into and present itself as a leading centre for water knowledge and climate change expertise, the second that the investments required will enhance the attractiveness of the city and port for residents, companies, and knowledge institutes, and the third that adaptation innovations and knowledge are to be developed and marketed as an export product. The final pillar states that innovative water management will make the city more attractive as well as provide additional economic activity.

The plan sees a number of innovative measures carried out, including the building of facilities to absorb water (such as a parking garage that incorporates a 10,000 cubic metre underground rainwater store), improvements of the city’s drainage system, and the creation of “Water plazas” that operate as playgrounds when dry and temporarily hold water during heavy rain, before slowly releasing it to the drainage system. Rooftop gardens are also being encouraged in the city, as they absorb both rain and CO₂. Premium-priced floating communities on waterside sites are being moved nearer to the coast under the plans.

Rotterdam seeks to show that delta cities can be resilient by cleverly embracing climate and non-climate challenges. Rotterdam collaborates with the national government, as well as with cities and institutions abroad to achieve its aims.

Fast facts:
  • The city aims to achieve an ambitious 40% reduction in CO₂ levels by the year 2030
  • The city aims to reduce CO₂ emissions by 50 percent by 2025 and to be 100 percent climate proof by 2025
  • Rotterdam was home to the first metro system in the Netherlands, opening in 1968.
  • As part of the city’s sustainable mobility policy, cyclists have right of way in traffic and bike paths are separated from the road.
  • The Port of Rotterdam is regarded as one of the most sustainable in the world.
  • Rotterdam is home of the Electric Vehicle Centre, which provides information to commercial organisations and private individuals on electric transport
  • Rotterdam Floating Pavilion are three domes floating in the harbour that act as an exhibition pavilion, showcasing floating building construction, energy efficiency and climate management technologies.


  • Fourth on the Final technical ranking of the European Green Capital 2014.
  • Signatory of the Covenant of Mayors.
  • Marked as the World Capital for Carbon capture and storage by the Clinton Climate Initiative.
  • Proclaimed Solar City 2012 by the Dutch “Solar Days” event.
  • Rotterdam Central Post building was awarded the Sustainable Architecture 2011 award at the Green Buildings 2020 conference.


“In 2042 Rotterdam will be a lively metropolis in which the port and city are connected. What is now ‘a City on the River’ will have been transformed into a system of recycling streams of water, energy, raw materials, goods and waste products: a network of information and knowledge, of synergy and vigour. The people of Rotterdam will be in equilibrium with the environment, socially orientated and respectful of diversity. Compared to today, twice as many people will live in the inner city, but the impact on the environment will be minimal. In 2042 Rotterdam will be an attractive city which offers high-quality living, working and mobility.”

Alexandra van Huffelen
Vice Mayor for Sustainability, the City Centre and Public Space


ICLEI and Rotterdam: The City of Rotterdam has been an ICLEI member since October, 1992. The city is a signatory of the Aalborg Charter and Aalborg Commitments. The city has participated in several ICLEI projects, including attending the Stakeholder Dialogues organised within the EU Cities Adapt project. Deputy Mayor of Rotterdam, Alexandra van Huffelen, is the Resilient Cities portfolio holder within ICLEI's European Regional Executive Committee. The city is also a member of ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

Websites: www.rotterdamclimateinitiative.nl