Effective Policy Steered by Effective Leaders

In the current environment, planning for climigration is disincentivized to the point that most municipalities and property owners either avoid the topic altogether or make the rational choice to wait for a catastrophe to trigger post-disaster funding streams. 

Some of the policy and legal challenges impacting the climigration conversation are:

  • There is a lack of clear policy direction for communities interested in exploring managed retreat.
  • Often there is not a direct connection between affected communities and those setting policy and allocating resources.
  • Particularly at the federal level, there is a focus on recovery over proactive planning.
  • Real estate transfers through buy-out programs often work slowly.
  • Many states and communities do not have adaptation plans, and even those that do almost universally avoid the issue of retreat. 
  • Many jurisdictions lack clear land policies that would enable wise climate-related relocation efforts.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program incentivizes people to stay in vulnerable places.
  • There is insufficient internal coordination among government agencies capable of helping communities explore the possibilities for climigration.
  • There is not enough clarity on the legal tools available to communities interested in retreat.

While policy and leadership gaps exist, there are concrete steps municipalities and residents can take to make progress on climigration. Such measures include: 

  • Engaging in comprehensive retreat planning processes.
  • Learning about the legal tools that are available for retreat efforts (e.g., legislation to secure land for relocation and negotiated easements for the sale of coastal land).
  • Establishing rebuilding restrictions and changing zoning codes to disincentivize development in at-risk areas. 
  • Requiring real estate agents to disclose climate-related damage to potential home buyers.
  • Educating residents about the benefits of managed retreat.

Our climigration network seeks to document and share what we know about institutional responses to climigration needs and efforts. We also seek to envision or invent innovative approaches that no one has tried yet.