Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Ajibade, I, M Sullivan and M Haeffner. (2020). Why climate migration is not managed retreat: Six justifications. Global Environmental Change 65: 102187. doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102187
This perspective piece makes a case for a more rigorous treatment of managed retreat as a politically, legally, and economically distinct type of relocation that is separate from climate migration. We argue that the use of both concepts interchangeably obfuscates the problems around climate-induced mobilities and contributes to the inconsistencies in policy, plans, and actions taken by governments and organizations tasked with addressing them. This call for a disentanglement is not solely an academic exercise aimed at conceptual clarity, but an effort targeted at incentivizing researchers, practitioners, journalists, and advocates working on both issues to better serve their constituencies through alliance formation, resource mobilization, and the establishment of institutional pathways to climate justice. We offer a critical understanding of the distinctions between climate migration and managed retreat grounded in six orienting propositions. They include differential: causal mechanisms, legal protections, rights regimes and funding structures, discursive effects, implications for land use, and exposure to risks. We provide empirical examples from existing literature to contextualize our propositions while calling for a transformative justice approach to addressing both issues.