Environmental Migration and Regional Livelihood Planning: A Livelihood Planning Approach to Circular Migration

Asmeeta Das Sharma, G. Bracken, V.E. Balz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Climate change is causing people to migrate, affecting developing countries’ regional development and disproportionately impacting economically vulnerable communities. Low socioeconomic status and limited political power means that migrants suffer from reduced visibility and legitimacy, which increases poverty and economic degradation. Climate migration lacks a comprehensive and universally accepted name or status. Current policies focus on post-impact scenarios and do little to address structural flaws or humanitarian issues associated with state-aid practices. This article asks what role can be played for and by climate-displaced populations. It answers this by looking at climate-induced circular migration in coastal regions of the Global South. It explores spatial planning and governance best practices, seeing them as tools to adapt climate-induced migration to benefit both sending and receiving regions, as well as the migrants themselves. It advocates a pre-emptive regional approach, highlighting the role that traditional knowledge can play in helping people regenerate livelihoods and increase climate resilience by incorporating traditional knowledge into economic and spatial plans. This can contribute to conservation, and strengthen local ownership of identity and culture, which, in turn, can aid rural development strategies at a regional level. The article builds on existing literature, sees migrants as a source of traditional knowledge, and proposes a three-part framework. “Define – Include – Recognize” addresses climate-induced migration by providing a universal definition for the environmentally displaced; includes environmental migration in national and local spatial planning policy instruments; and stresses the need for community-based strategies and pre-emptive planning to make concrete proposals for the material improvement of migrants’ lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Circular migration
  • Environmental change
  • Environmental justice
  • Natural livelihoods


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