Exploring Local Realities of Carbon Offsetting: Environmental Justice in a Ugandan Carbon Forestry Project

University essay from Lunds universitet/Humanekologi; Lunds universitet/Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi

Abstract: In the quest to find a ‘least cost solution’ for climate change mitigation that do not interfere with business-as-usual, carbon trading and PES schemes were introduced. PES schemes with carbon forestry projects are implemented in the Global South as a win-win-win tool for climate change mitigation and sustainable development. In this thesis, the Ugandan carbon forestry project Trees for Global Benefits is used as a case study with the aim to analyse how it has unfolded at a local level. Interviews with project participants and non-participant community members were conducted in Kasese District, focusing on their food security, fuel security, and income stability. Findings in this study, and in other studies of the TGB project, show that the project brings some beneficial outcomes for the project participants, such as increased food access and income generation activities, but at a cost of food stability and fuel self-subsistence for themselves and non-participant community members. These trade-offs and injustices, I argue, are products of the neo-classical conceptualisation of PES projects, where efficiency, cost-effectiveness and environmental additionality are prioritised over equity. Furthermore, many argue that efficiency and equity are intertwined in PES, and therefore this prioritisation on efficiency might in fact result in impermanence and low environmental additionality, and hence not fulfil the overall aim of PES – to be additional to business-as-usual. Therefore, in order to create a successful PES project, and not just an unjust illusion of action to climate change, one needs to change the current economic conceptualisation into one that is more integrated and participatory where the local context, with its socio-economic and socio-ecological relations, are taken into account.

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