Published In

Global Environmental Change

Document Type


Publication Date



Climate adaptation, Intersectional justice, Managed retreat, Planned resettlement, Success typologies


As managed retreat programs expand across the globe, there is an urgent need to assess whether these programs are reducing exposure to climatic hazards, enhancing adaptive capacity, and improving the living conditions of communities in a just and equitable manner or are they exacerbating existing risks and vulnerabilities? Strictly speaking, are retreat programs successful? Using an expansive intersectional justice approach to examine 138 post-resettlement case studies published between 2000 and 2021 across the Global North and South, we identified five typologies of success – techno-managerial, eco-restorative, compensatory, reformative, and transformative – and their trade-offs and synergies. Our meta-analysis incorporated a variety of metrics: relocation types, funding, decision making, socio-economic class, land use change, livelihood options, and social impacts. We found 26% of cases failed, 43% were successful, and 30% are on-going and therefore success was undetermined. The techno-managerial cases, while successful in the limited terms of relocating residents, paid little attention to equity and justice. The eco-restorative and compensatory cases reduced hazard exposure but revealed the synergies and tensions associated with social, ecological, and intergenerational justice. The reformative and transformative cases improved community wellbeing, rootedness, and access to livelihoods while incorporating diverse justice concerns to different degrees. By intersecting these typologies with multiple dimensions of justice, this study advances a novel planning and analytical tool for assessing the potential success or failure of current and future retreat programs.


Copyright (c) 2022 The Authors

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Persistent Identifier

Included in

Geography Commons