Local Planning in Climate Change Adaptation


  • Processes associated with managed realignment/managed retreat that can be informed by informal or formal planning
  • Specific opportunities for local planning in the context of managed realignment/managed retreat
  • Novel approaches to public participation in decision-making around climate change adaptation, focusing on tools currently in use in New Jersey


As seas worldwide rise due to climate change, some land along coasts and estuaries will become permanently inundated. Other land will have increased risks of erosion, wave damage, and flooding from tides, storm surge, and wind. Residents who are low-income, have their modest savings invested in a coastal parcel, or live in sites that are already vulnerable to storms face the greatest difficulties in responding. Some households are already leaving eroding or storm-damaged settlements in an ongoing and slow migration. The costs of this unplanned retreat are being borne by these individuals and by institutions that may not have anticipated such costs, creating a new form of environmental injustice.

In low-density settlements, and in communities lacking resources for elaborate barriers (seawalls) or accommodations (raising houses on stilts), moving could be the safest, most cost-effective, and most humane option. Planned moving (managed realignment or managed retreat) involves two processes that could be guided by informal or formal planning, one to ease the transition from threatened sites and another to promote settlement in safer places.

Learn about how to use urban and community planning to focus deliberations about the momentous choice of retreating from sections of the coast and of reestablishing community elsewhere. Gain an overview of planning tools you can use to increase public participation in decision-making about adaptation responses that may change or end human uses of shore areas. Discuss general tools and the more comprehensive planning protocol currently being used by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, as well as two specific tools being used by New Jersey communities: the “Getting to Resilience: Community Planning and Evaluation Tool” and The Nature Conservancy’s “Coastal Resilience Tool.”