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Planning for climigration: a framework for effective action

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The phenomenon of ‘climigration’ is an emerging and increasing challenge to human settlements. Climigration refers to community relocation undertaken in response to climate change impacts. This paper adds to early but critical scholarly discussions by providing a land-use planning framework for organising and responding to the governance, policy, institutional and cultural implications of climigration. This paper argues that land-use planning will be increasingly required to manage climigration events over the coming decades and will rely on input and guidance from other disciplines to do so effectively. Climigration is conceptualised as an end-point of climate change adaptation in this paper. Empirical content derives from a multidisciplinary systematic quantitative literature review of international case studies of community relocations. Planning factors with critical, moderate or negligible influences on relocation success are synthesised. These are linked to the roles and functions of land-use planning systems to provide a framework for approaching climigration. The paper provides three interlinked conclusions. The first is that spatial planning systems have potential and capacity to respond to climigration as an extreme form of climate change adaptation. The second is that anticipatory policy frameworks offer the greatest advantages for successful climigration planning. The third conclusion is that maladaptation is a potential but avoidable threat connected to climigration planning.
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Full citation: Matthews, T. and Potts, R. (2018) Planning for climigration: A framework for
effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
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Planning for climigration: a framework for effective action
Authors
Tony MATTHEWS1* and Ruth POTTS2
*Author for correspondence
Authors contact details
1. Corresponding author: Dr Tony MATTHEWS, Lecturer, School of Environment and
Science, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.
Email: t.matthews@griffith.edu.au; Phone: +61 (0)7 3735 4086
2. Dr Ruth POTTS, Lecturer, School of Geography and Planning, Science and Engineering,
Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3WA, Wales.
Email: pottsr1@cardiff.ac.uk; Phone: +44 (0)29 2087 5281
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Full citation: Matthews, T. and Potts, R. (2018) Planning for climigration: A framework for
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1. Introduction
The concept of ‘climigration’ describes “a specific type of permanent population
displacement that occurs when community relocation is required to protect residents from
climate-induced biophysical changes that alter ecosystems, damage or destroy public
infrastructure and repeatedly endanger human lives” (Bronen and Chapin 2013, p. 9320).
Climate change impacts now pose increasingly severe threats to the viability of human
settlements. In some instances, chronic and severe impacts may render settlements unviable,
leaving climigration as the adaption option of last resort. Climigration is no longer a concern
for the future; it is an emerging and urgent contemporary challenge. To illustrate, the United
States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided $1 billion in grant
funding in 2016 to help communities in 13 states to adapt to climate change. One grant, worth
$48 million, is the first direct allocation of federal funding to move an entire community
(Daveport and Robertson 2016). The residents of the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana will
become the first community in the US to undergo federally sanctioned climigration.
Scholarly conversations on the interdisciplinary nature and character of climigration are
already underway in this journal (cf., Cheong 2011; Maldonado et al. 2013; Sovacool 2012)
and elsewhere (Leckie 2014a). Our paper adds to these early but critical discussions by
providing a land-use planning framework for effectively organising and responding to the
governance, policy, institutional and practical implications of climigration. We argue that
land-use planning systems are likely to emerge as lead agencies in managing climigration
events in many cases. As yet there is limited exploration of the nexus between climigration
and land-use planning, so this paper also addresses an urgent knowledge gap. The wide scope
of spatial dynamics means many planning issues are best understood through inter-
disciplinary engagement. Specializations within land-use planning, including public health,
housing, urban design and community development, benefit from inter-disciplinary inputs
(Friedmann 2008; Levy 2017, p. 4). Delivering climate change adaptation through land-use
planning similarly benefits from inter-disciplinary engagement (Matthews 2013). So too will
land-use planning’s capacity to respond to climigration.
We conceptually frame climigration as an end-point of climate adaptation. This is based on
the view that climigration is the most extreme form of transformational adaptation. Our
findings derive from a multi-disciplinary systematic quantitative literature review (Petticrew
2001; Pickering & Byrne, 2014) of scholarly journal articles that document successful and
unsuccessful community relocations undertaken in response to environmental problems. We
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aim to establish a hierarchy of governance factors relevant to climigration led by land-use
planning systems. It should be noted that planning governance frameworks are unlikely to be
solely responsible for climigration response; instead they are likely to interact and work in
partnership with other governance frameworks from different institutional realms. However
the focus of this paper is specifically on depicting the nature and character of land-use
planning governance frameworks rather than interrogating their broader interactions with
other external frameworks. Governance factors for land-use planning are divided into three
tiers: those with critical, moderate or negligible implications. These factors are directly linked
to the roles, processes and functions of land-use planning systems. The implications of these
factors for planning systems are critically and reflexively interrogated. We offer three
interlinked conclusions. The first is that land-use planning systems have capacity to respond
to climigration as an extreme form of climate change adaptation but will require dynamism,
fluidity, deliberation and strategy to be successful. The second is that anticipatory policy
frameworks offer the greatest advantages in for climigration planning. The third conclusion is
that maladaptation is a potential but avoidable threat connected to climigration events
coordinated or managed by land-use planning systems.
2. Community relocation in literature
This paper focuses on climigration a form of climate change adaptation that involves
community relocations. The term ‘community relocation’ describes the planned movement of
communities of people, along with the infrastructure and structures that support them, away
from environmental hazards to less vulnerable locations (Coppola 2011, p. 215). Climigration
provides opportunities for planned retreat away from untenable locations and situations
(Bronen and Chapin 2013; Maldonado et al. 2013). Climigration events may involve
permanently relocating entire communities or large sections of them. Climigration is a form
of forced migration, as it occurs in response to threats to lives or livelihoods connected to
climate change impacts (IOM 2011, p. 39). It is also a form of assisted migration because it is
undertaken in a planned and structured way, generally with the assistance of governments and
agencies of government (IOM 2011, p. 11). Once climigration occurs, it is highly unlikely
that the original community will ever permanently return to its prior location. Climigration is
therefore a form of community relocation, albeit in a unique sense, as it can only occur where
climate change impacts constitute the driving force.
The literature concerned with adaptive community relocation is currently limited, but is
expanding as scholarly interest increases. There are currently two main streams. The first
empirically documents the observed experiences of planned community relocations (David
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and Mayer 1984; Leckie 2014a; Oliver-Smith 1991; Shriver and Kennedy 2005). For
example, David and Mayer (1984) examined the relocation of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. In
1976 the village board of Soldiers Grove decided to relocate the business district of the town
to protect it from flooding, despite a proposal from the US Army Corps of Engineers to fund
levees. The community resisted the construction of levees, as their annual operation and
maintenance costs were to be borne by the village and would have used up the majority of
annual property tax revenues. A major flood in 1978 provided further impetus for relocation.
David and Mayer (1984) found that the relocation produced numerous positive socio-
economic outcomes including increased economic activity, improvements to building stock
and an increase in community population size.
A cross-national study by Oliver-Smith (1991) documents community relocations following
earthquakes in Turkey, Iran, Guatemala, and Peru. The work provides three over-arching
findings. The first is that relocations are generally more complex than initially recognised by
disaster management agencies. The second is that practitioners see relocation as a last chance
and undesirable adaptation approach. The third is that forced relocations are likely to fail if
the victim population resists external decisions made without their consultation or consent.
Oliver-Smith’s analysis also records some drivers for successful and unsuccessful relocation
efforts. Drivers for success include: sufficient economic resources; strong social capital with
affected communities; provision of suitable new housing with room for future expansions
and; the creation of employment opportunities. Drivers of failure include: poor site choices,
distance from essential resources, and; poor design and construction of new housing.
The strong potential for conflicting community perspectives to delay relocation is
documented by Shriver and Kennedy (2005). In this case, the town of Picher, Oklahoma was
jointly designated for relocation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of
Oklahoma. Picher was suffering from severe contamination of its ground waster due to toxic
metal contamination. Environmental contamination became a severe problem despite
remediation efforts. The decision to relocate the community generated significant contention.
Much of this focused on how community members perceived risks associated with the
contamination. Two distinct community groups formed. The ‘Steering Group’ supported
relocation efforts. They campaigned for relocation using a proposed federal buyout, citing
serious environmental and health problems as catalysts for relocation. The ‘Speak Out’ group
opposed relocation, arguing that the problems were overstated. They also focused on the loss
of cultural connection to the town. Shriver and Kennedy argue that both groups held valid
positions, based on opposing views within common themes. They refer to this as connected to
opposing perceptions of risk.
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The second stream of community relocation literature provides guidance for relocation
initiatives (Abel et al. 2011; Bronen and Chapin 2013; Niven and Bardsley 2013). Bronen and
Chapin (2013) describe the experiences of three communities in Alaska whose viability was
threatened by extreme weather events and climate-induced coastal erosion. A key finding is
that the absence of overarching institutional relocation frameworks meant that relocations
occurred in an ad-hoc manner. Each community employed different approaches to their
relocation planning. The lack of clear institutional frameworks meant the communities faced
a myriad of problems. These included: legal issues around land acquisition to establish new
communities; establishing funding arrangements for new infrastructure; choosing culturally
appropriate locations to move to and; matching government and community criteria with
respect to site suitability.
The literature providing guidance for future community relocations builds on lessons from
prior relocation experiences to provide a basis for the development of institutional
frameworks designed to guide adaptive community relocations. A common theme is that
developing processes designed to facilitate community relocation is fraught with difficulties
(IFC 2002; FEMA and APA 2005; Imura and Shaw 2009). In particular, a lack of institutional
frameworks capable of providing a governance basis for relocating communities is regarded
as an impediment to community relocation (Abel et al. 2011; Bronen and Chapin 2013;
FEMA and APA 2005; Maldonado et al. 2013). The implications of this are potentially
damaging as already stressed communities may face the further challenge of being relocated
in uncoordinated ways. Coherent and flexible institutional frameworks, designed to provide
effective coordination of community relocations, can offer significant advantages in cases of
climigration. Ideally, frameworks should be capable of fast-tracking development
applications, approving demolitions, and providing temporary housing, access, transportation
and services to affected residents (FEMA and APA 2005).
3. Conceptualising climigration as an end-point of adaptation
We advance a conceptual perspective in this paper that climigration represents an end-point
of climate adaptation. Climate change adaptation involves direct action to limit and manage
negative climate change impacts (Adger, Arnell and Tompkins 2005; IPCC 2014). Adaptive
strategies are developed and delivered in order to adjust human and natural systems to
moderate harmful climate change effects of to gain from any beneficial opportunities they
may offer (IPCC 2014, p. 118). Successful climate adaptation strategies reduce vulnerability
to climate change impacts in human settlements. Two categories of adaptation exist in
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literature (IPCC 2014). The first is incremental adaptation, which aims to maintain the
essence and integrity of a system. The second is transformational adaptation, where adaptive
actions change the fundamental attributes of a system.
Climigration goes beyond incremental adaptation because the essence and integrity of a
community will be lost, or at least profoundly changed, if it is relocated. A physical relocation
is a type of ‘hard’ adaptation that will inherently alter the nature and character of any
community (Sovacool 2012). Granted, a community may be successfully relocated and its
residents may be content with their new location, housing and infrastructure.
Notwithstanding, the essence and integrity of the community will have changed substantively
even if high levels of social capital remain. Climigration is transformational adaptation
because it involves radical efforts to manage negative climate change impacts. This adaptive
action will extensively change fundamental attributes of the relocated community.
Conceptually, it is the most extreme form of transformational adaptation. Abandoning a
community, the opposite extreme response, is not an act of adaptation because it does not
manage climate change impacts; rather it concedes to them. The relocation of a community to
protect it from climate change impacts therefore represents a conceptual end-point of
adaptation because there cannot be any further form of response beyond it. As such, we argue
that climigration can be conceptually understood as an end-point of adaptation.
4. Methods
This paper employed a systematic quantitative literature review to categorise and analyse case
studies of community relocation in response to environmental problems. Governance factors
that influence the success or failure of such initiatives were categorised in order to understand
their implications for climigration. Systematic literature reviews involve the systematic
categorisation of relevant academic literature, enabling an objective analysis of the literature,
its key themes and gaps in knowledge (Petticrew 2001). It is used widely in the ecological,
medical, and social sciences and pays particular attention to the patterns of themes that
emerge from analysis (Petticrew 2001; Pickering and Byrne 2013; Roy, Byrne and Pickering
2012). Systematic literature reviews differ from meta-analysis in that ‘results of the reviewed
literature are not used as data for further statistical analysis’ (Rupprecht and Byrne 2014,
p.599). Rather, information pertaining to each paper’s characteristics (e.g. publication
discipline, research category) and content (e.g. case study typologies, categories of findings,
information specific to relocation) is recorded. This enables a methodologically rigorous
synthesis of trends in the literature and its discussion of a particular topic or issue (Petticrew
2001; Pickering and Byrne 2013; Roy, Byrne and Pickering 2012; Pickering and Byrne
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effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
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2014). It should be noted that findings from a systematic quantitative literature review might
appear vague if there is only a limited volume of literature is available to analyse.
Nonetheless, the findings are valid and rigorous if all appropriate literature is harvested and
systematically and quantitatively reviewed.
Eligible literature from a spectrum of disciplines was found through a systematic search of
peer reviewed academic journal articles in Google Scholar using combinations of the
following exact terms: community relocation; community relocation and planning;
community resettlement; community resettlement and planning; disaster relocation; disaster
relocation and planning; climate change relocation; climate change relocation and planning.
The search parameters were not time limited. Identified papers were systematically screened
according to whether or not they examined, discussed or referred to planning factors
influencing community relocation in a case study context. Papers that discussed resettlement
in terms that did not include community relocations were screened out, ie, papers related to
development, conflict, etc that only discussed resettlements of people and did not include
consideration of moving housing stock or infrastructure. Papers were initially screened using
their abstracts, followed by a more in-depth analysis of papers with relevant abstracts. Papers
were excluded if they described instances of temporary relocation, or if they did not discuss
or refer to planning factors influencing relocation in specific case study locations. Eligible
papers were drawn from a diverse array of disciplines. These included planning, disaster
management, environmental policy, sociology and immigration. The process produced a pool
of 12 eligible papers, with many more discarded because they did not satisfactorily meet the
methodological criteria.
The selected papers were systematically reviewed based on whether they discussed planning
factors in cases of community relocation. The findings of each paper were analysed to
identify factors identified as influential on decision-making surrounding the planning and
implementation of relocation. The factors were then grouped into three categories Critical,
Moderate, Negligible based on their prevalence and number of case studies in which they
occurred. The findings are provided in the next section and illustrated in Table 1. All findings
represent the information presented in each paper at the time of its publication. This study
does not directly comment on community relocation experiences following the publication of
any of the papers. Instead, to ensure rigour, the paper’s analysis is based on only what is
directly presented in the literature.
5. Findings
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The overall results of the systematic literature review are illustrated in Table 1. The
governance factors we identify as influencing relocation success are classified into three
categories of influence in the following analysis: (1) Critical (2) Moderate (3) Negligible.
Factors were identified across multiple environmental problems. The literature reveals that
the most commonly cited disaster catalyst for community relocation is the threat of repeated
and severe flood events.
INSERT TABLE 1 HERE
Table 1: Key factors influencing community relocations
5.1 Critical Influences
Our analysis found the primary difference between successful and unsuccessful community
relocation was the degree to which the community agreed on the need to relocate in response
to environmental problems (Bronen and Chapin 2013; Marino 2012; Perry and Lindell 1997;
Sipe and Vella 2014). The community of Newtok, an Eskimo village in western Alaska, for
example, undertook three separate votes that resulted in consensus to relocate the community
to a nearby island (Bronen and Chapin, 2013). This consensus provided sufficient social
capital for the Newtok community to commence relocation to avoid intensifying threats from
extreme weather events and climate-induced coastal erosion. The Shishmaref and Kivalina
communities of Alaska faced similar issues but were unsuccessful in their bid to relocate
despite the support of residents because a lack of alternative sites proved an insurmountable
barrier (Bronen and Chapin 2013).
High levels of ambiguity surrounding the dangers posed by living in a community with
substantial land and water contamination limited community consensus in Picher, Oklahoma
(Shriver and Kennedy 2005). Prevalent ambiguity led insufficient community consensus on
the extent of environmental dangers. This undermined arguments on the need to relocate in
response to the contamination issues. Some residents were highly motivated to relocate due to
high levels of risk perception, while others were less risk averse and saw limited advantage in
relocating. Ambiguity also undermined community consensus on the need to relocate in low-
lying coastal communities studied in Australia (Abel et al. 2011; Niven and Bardsley 2013).
The impact of sea level rise linked to climate change over coming decades is the impetus to
relocate in these cases. However, ambiguity surrounding the timing and severity of sea level
rise led to low levels of consensus. Our analysis strongly indicates that perceptions of risk can
influence feelings of ambiguity amongst residents. This can condition the probability and
extent of consensus for community relocations in some instances of climigration.
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5.2 Moderate Influences
Our analysis found that strong local leadership, government support for relocation and the
availability of economic resources have moderate levels of influence on the success of
community relocations (Badri et al. 2006; Bronen and Chapin 2013; Marino 2012; Perry and
Lindell 1997; Stal 2011). All of these factors featured in the case of Allenville, Arizona,
which relocated as a result of recurrent flooding (Perry and Lindell 1997). The provision of
funding by the Arizona Government and US Army Corps of Engineers catalysed efforts to
relocate. The success in relocating Allenville was also helped by government supporting local
leaders in their efforts to communicate directly with the community. This indicates that multi-
faceted government support for communities seeking to relocate can be a catalyst for success.
The availability of adequate economic resources and strong local leadership can improve the
capacity of relocated communities to resettle following disasters (Badri et al. 2006; Bronen
and Chapin 2013; David and Mayer 1984; Perry and Lindell 1997; Sipe and Vella 2014).
However, in some circumstances, communities relocate regardless of the financial resources
available to them (Marino 2012; Stal 2011). Such relocations generally occur in emergency
contexts where community infrastructure has been substantially destroyed (Badri et al., 2006;
Sipe and Vella 2014), or where there is a high likelihood of further and recurrent damage to
community infrastructure (Bronen and Chapin 2013; David and Mayer 1984; Sipe and Vella
2014). For example, the main business district of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin suffered
significant damage following an extreme flood event (David and Mayer 1984). Relocating the
town’s business district became the most viable option due to the high economic costs of
reconstruction, the likely cost of engineered solutions and flood-prone nature of the original
location.
5.3 Negligible Influences
The factors we found to have negligible impact on the success of relocation were the degree
to which the relocation was forced, whether a policy context facilitated relocation and
whether there was a specific policy framework for relocations. There was limited evidence to
suggest that involuntary relocations are any more common than voluntary relocations. Only
three of the relocation case studies examined were involuntary (Badri et al. 2006; Nilsson
2010; Stal 2011). The fact that the majority of cases did not involve forceful relocation may
suggest there are instances of community relocation where extent of risk outweighs all other
factors, leading to involuntary relocations. Conversely, it may also suggest that communities
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will generally relocate voluntarily if circumstances allow it and there is sufficient time to
generate consensus.
We found limited evidence to suggest that the policy context facilitating community
relocation was significant in the examined cases. Only three of the seven successful relocation
case studies (Badri et al. 2006; David and Mayer 1984; Perry and Lindell 1997) and one of
the unsuccessful case studies (Nilsson 2010) indicated that policy context had positively
influenced their success. The remaining seven case studies did not cite policy context as a
facilitator or limiter of community relocation. The presence of an overarching framework for
relocation was found to occur equally in the successful (Badri et al. 2006; Perry and Lindell
1997) and unsuccessful relocation cases (Nilsson 2010; Niven and Bardsley 2013). The
limited importance of policy frameworks is because relocation was highly reactive in most of
the examined cases. Arguably, an amenable policy context, combined with a specific
relocation framework designed to facilitate adaptive relocations, would have further
facilitated these communities to relocate successfully.
6. Discussion
Land-use planning provides “institutional mechanisms through which political communities
can address their common problems about the management of environmental change in
localities” (Healey 1997, p. 5). A growing body of literature focuses on the necessity for
planning to respond to climate change impacts in human settlements through adaptation
(Gleeson 2008; Hamin and Gurran 2009; Klein, Mantysalo and Juhola 2015; Measham et al.
2011; Matthews 2013). As conceptualised earlier, climigration is an extreme form of
transformational climate change adaptation. Whilst climigration may not feature heavily as a
planning concern at present, we argue that it is critical for land-use planning to awaken to
climigration as an emerging imperative. Land-use planning systems are becoming
increasingly active and sophisticated in their efforts to respond to climate change through
adaptation. Considering this, we argue that many have capacity and tools to start to engage
meaningfully with climigration as a nascent form of adaptation. Specific issues, processes and
pitfalls associated with developing dynamic institutional frameworks to manage and facilitate
climigration events are critically and reflexively discussed throughout this section.
Land-use planning systems are likely to be principal agencies in many climigration cases
because of their existing institutional roles in land-use organization and change, whether
prompted by social, economic or environmental conditions. Land-use planners are trained in
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processes likely to feature in climigration. These include land acquisition, managing
development applications and demolitions, providing temporary housing, providing
transportation services and mediating competing spatial claims. Planning responses to
climigration will require dynamism, fluidity, deliberation and strategy. They will also require
support, guidance, leadership and strategic direction from connected disciplines including
disaster management, environmental justice, social psychology, economics, law, public
policy, social policy and engineering.
6.1 Consensus through consultation
Community consensus supporting relocation was evident in all but one of the case studies
where relocations successfully occurred. This emphasises the importance of using community
consultation as a mechanism to build community consensus surrounding the need for
climigration. The potential for community consensus to emerge is increased if communities
are genuinely and comprehensively engaged and consulted about climigration as a response.
Community consultation is a common and long established tool employed by land-use
planning to inform the public and improve support and consensus for large development
projects (Shipley and Utz 2012). We suggest that land-use planners should also actively use
consultation as a vital tool for trying to secure a community’s consensus to relocate in the
event of climigration. Community consultations can raise awareness of risks, offer residents
an opportunity to actively participate in critical decisions and ultimately help secure
consensus. It can also ensure that community and human rights are central to decision-making
(Bronen 2011; Maldonado 2013). We caution that consultation processes should not be
understood to offer any guarantee of consensus. Consultation only provides a forum for
securing consensus it does not guarantee it. Consensus must come from the community
itself. We suggest there may be advantage in spatial planners liaising with representative
groups. Such groups, described by Mahony (2013) as ‘boundary organisations’, can provide a
bridge for knowledge exchange and communication between communities and outside
agencies. Such organizations may operate at international, national, regional or local scales.
They may include, where relevant, an Environmental Protection Agency, university research
centres, public health institutes, research grant agencies and scientific/technical advisory
groups (Guston et al. 2000). Involving boundary organisations can empower community
stakeholders to communicate, negotiate, and deliberatively build consensus surrounding the
communities’ desired outcomes if correctly managed.
Relocating a community places residents under profound emotional, social, economic and
cultural stress. This may create situations where stress and anxiety make residents hostile to
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external actors, even if those actors are there to assist them in relocating. We suggest that
community consultations in such cases run a significant risk of becoming tense, fraught and
hostile. This possibility may be heightened in communities where climigration suddenly
enters a community’s agenda due to recent, severe impacts. Residents may be overcome with
shock, anger or grief. Securing their attention and consensus may be challenging. We suggest
that planners facilitating consultations related to climigration would benefit the assistance of
trauma counsellors. Their expertise and training could help manage highly charged situations
and mediate disputes. Planners may also benefit from assistance provided by psychologists,
who can sensitively explain to traumatised residents that the disruption of relocation may be
less severe than the dangers associated with remaining. Depending on circumstances, other
contributing disciplines and professionals may include health, engineering, geology and
emergency service workers.
6.2 Mediating relocation costs
Instances of climigration will have substantial associated costs. Some of these will be
experienced by residents of affected communities, such as emotional costs associated with
losing a family home. Other costs will be borne by both the relocated community and wider
society. We highlight two costs we see as relevant to land-use planning. The first is the
economic cost of finding suitable land to relocate a community to. Planners may be required
to quickly secure new land. It is likely that funding for land purchase will come from
government, with site selection placed in the domain of planners. Whilst this sounds practical,
we suggest that it may become problematic. For example, planners may identify a suitable
site within a reasonable distance of the current community, which offers acceptable
topography, as well as proximity to roads, public transport options and utility networks.
However, they may be limited in their capacity to negotiate on purchase price if they are
seeking to secure that land on the open market. Government may only be willing to make a
certain amount of money available, leaving planners forced to choose between what they see
as the most appropriate site and other sites that offer less potential but a lower purchase price.
While there are documented instances where governments have secured land banks in
anticipation of future need, it is not common practice and so cannot be generally relied on by
planners (Leckie 2014b). Time will likely also be factor. Communities undertaking
climigration will probably not wish to be unduly delayed. As such, land purchase processes
may place planners in the middle of competing forces, comprising residents’ expectations,
governments’ budgetary limitations and the market’s profit-maximising intentions.
Successfully mediating these forces and costs will require planners to be strategic, determined
and deliberative.
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The second cost we see as relevant is cultural cost. Communities that are required to relocate
face internal social costs related to losses of identity, sense of place and shared histories.
Land-use planners are likely to be limited in their capacity to respond because these costs
may be largely unavoidable. Nonetheless, planners should not underestimate the importance
of cultural costs experienced by affected residents (Cheong 2011, Maldonado et al. 2013). We
see a particular role for planners in mediating between the needs of relocating communities
and the needs of existing communities that may be proximate to a relocation site. This
challenge becomes potentially more severe if decisions are made to try and blend relocated
communities with existing communities. Receiving communities may reasonably see the
quick arrival of large numbers of new residents as problematic, disruptive or threatening. In
this sense, a receiving community could face their own cultural costs. We suggest that
planners need to be cognisant of this potential reality. They should consult with receiving
communities to allay their fears, build consensus and harness their support. We suggest
failure to appreciate the concerns receiving communities may feel for their cultural identities
could lead to serious social disharmonies. Instances of climigration are obviously disruptive
for relocating residents. However, knowing they are unwelcome in their new homes could be
very socially harmful for those individuals as well as the communities that receive them.
6.3 The advantages of anticipatory frameworks
Fluid and dynamic institutional frameworks are important in cases of climigration (Bronen
and Chapin 2013). We advocate that land-use planning systems should proactively develop
anticipatory frameworks. These should be designed to strategically guide climigration
responses if vulnerable communities are identified. Dedicated frameworks are preferable in
cases where planning is required to respond to climate change through adaptation (Matthews
2011). Ad-hoc solutions are unlikely to prove superior to anticipatory institutional
frameworks. In the case of climigration, anticipatory frameworks may also lessen the
potential for maladaptation. We suggest that maladaptive outcomes are more likely to occur
in climigration events where weak, vague, or no institutional frameworks exist. It may also
occur when there is poor coordination between planning systems and other disciplines or
professional agencies. Maladaptive outcomes could, at worst, increase the vulnerability of
relocated communities. As such, anticipatory frameworks designed to strategically guide
climigration via land use planning may improve the potential for climigration success and
reduce the potential for maladaptive outcomes which intensify stresses already face by
exposed communities.
AUTHOR ACCEPTED COPY
Full citation: Matthews, T. and Potts, R. (2018) Planning for climigration: A framework for
effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
14
We argue that anticipatory land use planning frameworks for climigration should prioritise
the following: attaining community consensus; provisioning involvement from other
professionals agencies and disciplines; establishing comprehensive mechanisms for managing
and mediating the economic, social and cultural costs of climigration. Vulnerable
communities can be identified using risk mapping. If communities are identified and
climigration may become necessary, the development of anticipatory frameworks should
begin as early as possible. Alternative sites can be short-listed in advance and potential
logistical and infrastructural demands can be identified. Potential requirements for resources
may be noted within climigration frameworks so they can be quickly actioned, should they
become necessary. Specific policies can be established to provide for community
consultations to be undertaken with the support of local boundary groups. Liaising with and
utilising local leadership can also help allay suspicion or hostility amongst affected residents.
Institutional provision for temporary housing provision, temporary road construction and
infrastructural support can also be established. In addition, providing social associated
support structures, such as trauma counselling, could also be provisioned through anticipatory
climigration frameworks.
7. Conclusion
Climate change impacts increasingly threaten the viability of human settlements and may start
to increasingly render some unviable over the coming decades. Climigration, the planned
relocation of settlements exposed to extreme climate-induced changes, was conceptualised as
an end-point of adaptation in this paper. That was based on the argument that there are no
further adaptive responses beyond spatially relocating a community. We argued that
climigration fits within the domain of land-use planning systems as an extreme form of
climate change adaptation. Land-use planning systems are key government agencies, charged
with developing institutional mechanisms to manage spatial and environmental change,
including climate change adaptation, across scales. They routinely import and translate
knowledge from other disciplines to help craft good outcomes when faced with a wide scope
of spatial dynamics. Results from our systematic quantitative literature review identified and
provided insights into the potential governance issues central to community relocations. We
linked these to the roles, functions and processes land-use planning systems to highlight their
implications for climigration planning.
We offer three interlinked conclusions. The first is that land-use planning systems are capable
of responding to climigration as a form of climate change adaptation. Responses will require
dynamism, fluidity, deliberation and strategy and will need to be informed by knowledge,
AUTHOR ACCEPTED COPY
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effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
15
processes and strategy developed with input from other disciplines. Planning systems can
respond but adaptive responses will need to be uniquely devised and appropriate to local
professional, economic, environmental, social and cultural realities. Our second conclusion is
that anticipatory policy frameworks for climigration offer much greater advantages in
instances of climigration, compared with reactive responses. Climigration frameworks should
include comprehensive provisions for seeking community consensus, actively engaging with
community leadership, involving other professionals and agencies and providing mechanisms
for mediating the many costs of climigration. Our third conclusion that maladaptive
climigration outcomes are possible due to weak or vague institutional frameworks or poor
coordination between land-use planning systems and other professional agencies. We argue
that the surest way to minimise the potential for maladaptation is by ensuring that anticipatory
climigration frameworks are devised to strategically guide climigration responses if
vulnerable communities are identified in a land-use planning system’s functional area.
Climigration is a relatively new concept and is not yet extensively examined from a land-use
planning perspective. While our paper offers a land-use planning framework for organising
and responding to climigration, it is subject to some research limitations. The first is that our
systematic literature review is based on a review of scholarly journal articles that document
past community relocations undertaken in response to environmental problems. As such,
there are likely to be influencing factors in future climigration events that are not accounted
for here. We acknowledge that the specific ways in which the factors we highlight affect land-
use planning will be shaped into the future by combinations of experience, context, location
and circumstance. More will be learned as these events unfold and are researched. We also
acknowledge that real-world experiences will influence the nature and character of land-use
planning frameworks for climigration and that shifts and changes will be better understood
through future experience. Another limitation is viability. We have not explicitly discussed
the circumstances under which wholesale relocation may be an option for a community.
Factors such as land availability, community size and government funding may be important
limiting factors. Climigration may not be a possibility for large cities and may only be viable
for small towns and rural villages. It is difficult to predict when climigration will be viable in
general terms as it is likely that its viability will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking
a variety of factors into account. However, we do not doubt that there will be future instances
where climigration is rejected for being too much of a logistical, financial or institutional
challenge. A final limitation we wish to acknowledge is around the availability of land-use
planning systems. Whilst land-use planning is widely used internationally, there are still many
jurisdictions where it does not exist or is weakly articulated. In such cases, it seems clear that
land-use planning cannot be relied on to manage or coordinate climigration events.
AUTHOR ACCEPTED COPY
Full citation: Matthews, T. and Potts, R. (2018) Planning for climigration: A framework for
effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
16
Relocating vulnerable communities as an extreme form of adaptation may become more
common, necessary and acceptable over time. Harm from chronic and severe climate change
impacts may lead to climigration becoming the only viable option for some vulnerable
communities. While climigration may not yet currently feature as a land-use planning issue, it
is likely to become an increasingly urgent agenda over the coming decades. Land-use
planning systems can and should begin to meaningfully engage with climigration as a nascent
reality. Doing so will allow them to start developing proactive responses in conjunction with
other cognate disciplines to minimise future disruptions to communities and their residents.
AUTHOR ACCEPTED COPY
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17
Table 1: Key factors influencing community relocations
Article
Reference
Reason for
relocation
Location
Success in
permanently
relocating
Community
consulted in
decision-
making
Community
consensus
on need for
relocation
Adequate
economic
resources
provided by
government
Local
leadership
Government
support for
relocation
(multi-scale)
Forcible
community
relocation
Policy
context
facilitates
relocation
Overarching
framework
for relocation
(Adger et
al., 2013)
Cyclone
Niue, South
Pacific
Yes
-
-
-
X
-
-
(Badri et
al., 2006)
Earthquake
Manjil, Iran
Yes
-
-
X
Voluntary
and
involuntary
(David &
Mayer,
1984)
Flooding
Wisconsin,
USA
Yes
X
X
X
(Perry &
Lindell,
1997)
Flooding
Allenville,
Arizona, USA
Yes
X
(Stal, 2011)
Flooding
Mozambique,
Africa
Yes
X
X
X
-
X
(Sipe &
Vella,
2014)
Flooding
Queensland,
Australia
Yes
X
(Bronen &
Chapin,
2013)
Flooding/
erosion
Alaska, USA
Partial (1 out
of 3 villages)
X
X
X
X
(Marino,
2012)
Flooding/
erosion
Alaska, USA
In planning
process
X
-
X
X
X
(Abel et al.,
2011)
Sea level rise
South East
Queensland,
Australia
No
-
X
X
X
X
X
X
(Nilsson,
2010)
Mining under
town
Kiruna,
Sweden
No
X
X
X
-
(Niven &
Bardsley,
2013)
Sea level rise
South
Australia,
Australia
No
X
X
X
X
X
X
(Shriver &
Kennedy,
2005)
Land
contamination
Oklahoma,
USA
No
X
X
X
X
X
X
- insufficient information available criteria evident X criteria absent
AUTHOR ACCEPTED COPY
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effective action. Climatic Change, 148(4), 607-621.
18
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