Equitable Resettlement for Climate Change–Displaced Communities in the United States


Coastal communities are uniquely vulnerable to many of the threats of anthropogenic climate change, such as hurricanes, storm surges, coastal erosion and sea level rise. Though the impacts of climate change affect everyone on the planet, underlying social inequities mean that marginalized communities burdened by factors that increase social vulnerability experience distinct and disproportionate harms. Further, inequities result not only from disproportionate exposure to environmental harms, but also the disproportionate impact of environmental policies that exacerbate harm for overburdened communities. This Comment explores ways in which environmental law and policy perpetuate injustice for socially vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color or low-income communities, often through biased environmental decisionmaking. By analyzing case studies and drawing upon the foundational policy frameworks that other scholars have proposed, this Comment suggests four principles that policymakers should consider in developing equitable resettlement policy: encouraging non-illusory community participation, mobilizing economic resources, using a context-driven approach, and emphasizing voluntariness. By elucidating these principles, this Comment aims not only to aid policymakers in designing equitable resettlements, but also provide a framework for displaced communities to demand them.

About the Author

Dialectic Editor, Volume 66, UCLA Law Review. J.D., UCLA School of Law, 2019; B.A., Oberlin College, 2011.