Lessons in ‘Planned Relocation’

How communities can manage climate-induced relocation successfully and equitably.

1 minute read

August 22, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Collapsed road on coastal cliff in California

Road erosion along the California coast. | Bill Keefrey / Adobe Stock

A new paper published in Nature Climate Change examines the financial, physical, and cultural outcomes of managed retreat through 14 examples from around the world. 

As Ysabelle Kempe explains in Smart Cities Dive, the authors found that strong community engagement is key to successful ‘planned relocation’—the linguistic distinction matters, according to the study—which can occur when neighborhoods or towns find themselves at risk from coastal erosion, flooding, or other climate factors that make living in their current location unsustainable.

The study found that characteristics of the new location matter, but geographic distance may not be the most important factor in how easily people adjust: elevation change, social networks, and other factors can also impact how comfortable people feel in a new community.

The authors emphasize that “Planned relocation should never be the only option,” but that “It should be an open conversation where communities are informed about the range of options and then given their own time and space to come to conclusions about what makes sense.”

According to the study, “There's evidence to suggest that adaptation works best when it happens in a polycentric governance scheme involving many scales of government,” from national to local.

Monday, August 21, 2023 in Smart Cities Dive

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