The complex decision-making of climate-induced relocation: adaptation and loss and damage – Climate Policy


Climate change is increasingly challenging the ability of millions of people to sustain livelihoods as the places where they live become uninhabitable. The relocation of populations as individuals, households, and communities within countries and across international borders demonstrates the complexity of climate change impacts. Looking at the literature, some researchers argue that relocation caused by climate change can be an effective strategy to adapt to localized changes, whereas others argue that the movement away from ones’ homeland is more neatly captured in the climate change lexicon as ‘loss and damage’. We argue here that the relocation of people as a result of the impacts of climate change can be both adaptation and loss and damage. Drawing on examples from Alaska and Kiribati, we show that dividing this issue between the two concepts is unhelpful in resolving key issues around the types of appropriate support for these transitions to sustain and protect livelihoods and to open up possibilities for self-determined futures.

Policy Relevance

Climate-induced relocation poses a significant challenge for the populations affected as well as the government agencies tasked with providing technical assistance and funding. At present, policies and institutional frameworks have not yet been developed to accommodate these challenges, despite the urgent need to do so. When the relocation of populations can be planned, participatory, and people centred, then it can be an adaptation strategy that will protect people from the permanent loss of land and livelihoods. If these movements are decided, driven, managed, and undertaken by those affected, then there is the potential for the relocation to also be a transformative opportunity for people to respond to the impacts of climate change, and sustain their livelihoods and possibly even improve certain livelihood outcomes. However, these relocations also cause significant loss and damage. The extent of the loss and damage will partly depend on the ability to have these relocations planned and ensure that human rights protections are embedded in institutional frameworks. The article shares a series of lessons and learnings that are of policy relevance at a variety of scales.

SOURCE: Karen E. McNamara, Robin Bronen, Nishara Fernando, and Silja Klepp, “The complex decision-making of climate-induced relocation: adaptation and loss and damage”, Climate Policy, Published online 08 Dec 2016

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