The Social Life of Forest Carbon: Property and Politics in the Production of a New Commodity

S. Mahanty, S. Milne, W.H. Dressler, C. Filer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Interventions to conserve carbon stored in forests are central to the emerging global climate change regime. Widely referred to as REDD+, these interventions engage local resource holders in contracts to restrict their use of land and forests in exchange for conditional benefits, effectively creating a market for forest carbon—a new and intangible commodity. Delving into the social and material implications of this, three case studies (Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Cambodia) examine property relations in the early stages of forest carbon production in different tenure contexts. The case studies reveal that: (a) the risk of local exclusion from forest and lands under REDD+ is real, but is mediated by dynamic negotiations over knowledge and property; (b) the relationship between forest carbon and underlying property relations around land and forests is recursive and mutually constitutive; and (c) due to ongoing and entrenched property contests in REDD+ locations, there remains an unstable foundation for forest carbon markets
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-664
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • governance
  • offsets

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