Interrogating development in carbon forestry activities : a case study from Mexico
Markets for ecosystem services are being promoted by global institutions, transnational
NGOs and some governments in industrialised and developing countries.
Markets for carbon dioxide fixation by forests have received substantial attention due
to their relationship with international climate change policy. The United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol have
encouraged international investors to finance tree planting in the developing world
with the objective to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to promote sustainable
development. To date, research in this context has been technical in nature, more
concerned with finding ways to ensure that these forestry projects meet their climate
mitigation objective than analysing how they contribute to local development.
This thesis interrogates the potential of carbon forestry activities to contribute to
rural development in Mexico and looks specifically at the implementation of the
Fondo Bioclimätico forestry project in the state of Chiapas. At the national level,
findings reveal how the institutional complexity of emerging carbon markets, the
lack of inclusive participation in decision-making and a poor level of expertise
among NGOs and rural organisations appear as critical factors for an effective and
widespread implementation of carbon forestry activities. At the project level,
findings demonstrate the difficulty of establishing fair and inclusive decision-making
processes and promoting forest plantations that suit a diversity of local interests. An
analysis of two participating communities shows how access to the project is
influenced by organisational affiliation, land endowment, gender identity and local
property rights, factors which, in turn, determine who has access to and benefits from
carbon forestry activities.
This dissertation adds to a growing body of research analysing the impacts of carbon
forestry activities and other emerging markets for ecosystem services. It provides
scholars and development practitioners with key insights on the challenges faced by
these activities when they aim to balance carbon mitigation and development goals.
The Mexican experience casts doubt over the possibility that carbon forestry
activities alone, and more generally markets for ecosystem services, can promote
rural development in the developing world