Kirstine Lund Christiansen, University of Copenhagen
Adeniyi Asiyanbi, University of British Columbia Okanagan
Jens Friis Lund, University of Copenhagen
Forest carbon offsetting continues to stumble through various crises – unrelenting global deforestation, growing severity of wildfires and other extreme weather events, widespread criticisms and local resistance, and enduring problems of additionality, leakage, and permanence (Gifford 2020; Hajdu and Fischer 2017; Asiyanbi and Lund 2020; Milne et al. 2019). Nevertheless, carbon forestry initiatives have found renewed impetus from the Glasgow Climate Pact and the proliferating promises of net-zero carbon emissions by governments and corporations. Market capital increasingly penetrates carbon forestry initiatives through growing marketization of publicly-funded projects, through plans and evidence of carbon market expansion and integration, and through the inflow of market finance and philanthro-capital. While the intensification of neoliberal capitalism and associated exclusionary and violent logics in carbon forests and wider conservation landscapes is being rationalized through particular narratives of escalating environmental breakdown (Le Billon 2021), carbon forests also serve as a fix for capital’s crisis of accumulation and related crisis of legitimacy (Palmer 2021; Carton 2019). Furthermore, forest carbon offsetting initiatives themselves both precipitate and are confronted by various other kinds of crises across local project sites, verification chains, and across spaces of offset trading and ‘consumption’. Understanding the logics and effects of these crises requires investigations of both the broader, interconnected structures of capital, science, and politics within which carbon forestry is embedded as well as the relations, actions, and motivations of actors operating in various parts of the carbon forestry network.
In this session, we are interested in the many crises in/of forest carbon offsetting, and we explore this from two angles around which political ecology can offer important insights. First, political ecology work can contribute to our understanding of the entanglements of capital and crises in forest carbon offsetting, including the ways in which crisis narratives invite and legitimize specific flows and logics of capital and the ways that actors attempt to repurpose, obscure and side-step crises, risks and complexities in order to tentatively sustain the circuits of capital and offsets (Frewer 2021; Milne and Mahanty 2019). Here, political ecology can also uncover the power-laden nature and effects of discourses, practices, and political technologies through which actors seek to grapple with actual and perceived crises that confront carbon forestry initiatives in general and at particular locales.
Second, we are also interested in the crises that forest carbon offsetting – by itself and in alignment with resource extraction and agroindustry – precipitate for local communities. On the ground, many carbon forestry projects are creating and compounding crisis for Indigenous peoples and local forest communities through empty promises, resource exclusion, food insecurity, various forms of violence, and broader marginalization (Asiyanbi and Lund 2020; Kansanga and Luginaah 2019; Fischer and Hajdu 2018; Milne et al. 2019; Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2014). Political ecology can shed light on the ways that narratives of global crisis are being enrolled to justify local crisis, but also how proponents of forest carbon offsetting might seek to side-step, obscure, or deny local crisis in evaluation reports, advertisements, offset sale brochures, and more.
We invite papers, including conceptual, empirical, and review work that explore various forms of crises in/of forest carbon offset and the ways in which proponents are seeking to grapple with repurpose, obscure, side-step, or deny crises. Indicative topics include:
- Crisis and logics of finance and capital broadly in carbon forests
- Project/program failure, failure discourses, and politics of failure in forest carbon initiatives
- Crisis branding and marketing in carbon offsetting
- Public perceptions of carbon offsetting, including ‘downstream’ public and private buyers and users of carbon offsets
- Political technologies for governing risk and uncertainty in carbon landscapes
- Local perspectives on adverse impacts of offsetting
- Narratives and initiatives suggesting ways to overcome current and expected crises of carbon forestry
Asiyanbi, Adeniyi, and Jens Lund. 2020. “Policy Persistence: REDD+ between Stabilization and Contestation.” Journal of Political Ecology 27 (1). https://doi.org/10.2458/v27i1.23493.
Carton, Wim. 2019. “‘Fixing’ Climate Change by Mortgaging the Future: Negative Emissions, Spatiotemporal Fixes, and the Political Economy of Delay.” Antipode 51 (3): 750–69. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12532.
Cavanagh, Connor, and Tor A. Benjaminsen. 2014. “Virtual Nature, Violent Accumulation: The ‘Spectacular Failure’ of Carbon Offsetting at a Ugandan National Park.” Geoforum 56 (September): 55–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.06.013.
Fischer, Klara, and Flora Hajdu. 2018. “The Importance of the Will to Improve: How ‘Sustainability’ Sidelined Local Livelihoods in a Carbon-Forestry Investment in Uganda.” Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 20 (3): 328–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/1523908X.2017.1410429.
Frewer, Tim. 2021. “What Exactly Do REDD+ Projects Produce? A Materialist Analysis of Carbon Offset Production from a REDD+ Project in Cambodia.” Political Geography 91 (November): 102480. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2021.102480.
Gifford, Lauren. 2020. “‘You Can’t Value What You Can’t Measure’: A Critical Look at Forest Carbon Accounting.” Climatic Change, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02653-1.
Hajdu, Flora, and Klara Fischer. 2017. “Problems, Causes and Solutions in the Forest Carbon Discourse: A Framework for Analysing Degradation Narratives.” Climate and Development 9 (6): 537–47. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2016.1174663.
Kansanga, Moses Mosonsieyiri, and Isaac Luginaah. 2019. “Agrarian Livelihoods under Siege: Carbon Forestry, Tenure Constraints and the Rise of Capitalist Forest Enclosures in Ghana.” World Development 113 (January): 131–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.09.002.
Le Billon, Philippe. 2021. “Crisis Conservation and Green Extraction: Biodiversity Offsets as Spaces of Double Exception.” Journal of Political Ecology 28 (1). https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.2991.
Milne, Sarah, and Sango Mahanty. 2019. “Value and Bureaucratic Violence in the Green Economy.” Geoforum 98 (January): 133–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.11.003.
Milne, Sarah, Sango Mahanty, Phuc To, Wolfram Dressler, Peter Kanowski, and Maylee Thavat. 2019. “Learning From ‘Actually Existing’ REDD+: A Synthesis of Ethnographic Findings.” Conservation & Society 17 (1): 84–95. https://doi.org/10.4103/cs.cs_18_13.
Palmer, James. 2021. “Putting Forests to Work? Enrolling Vegetal Labor in the Socioecological Fix of Bioenergy Resource Making.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 111 (1): 141–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2020.1749022.