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Governing carbon, transforming forest politics: A case study of Indonesia’s REDD+ Task Force

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) programme seeks to reshape the way we value, govern and interact with forests. Rather than managing forests according to interests in timber, conservation, land or livelihoods, REDD+ encour- ages forms of forest management that prioritise carbon. While international negotiations are shaping the rules of the programme, how it takes place on the ground will depend on its interpretation and implementation in different places. In this paper, we are interested in how the REDD+ Task Force (Satgas REDD+), an ad hoc body formed by presidential decree to design and implement REDD+ readiness activities in Indonesia, has attempted to mainstream the programme from 2010 to 2013. We develop a governmentality approach to focus on how the Task Force sought to introduce REDD+ carbon rationalities to forest politics. Based on extended ethnographic research, we identify three strategies: adopting and promoting the carbon discourses circulating among global REDD+ com- munities; making carbon visible and governable through mapping technologies; and implementing participatory technologies to encourage pro-REDD+ subjectivities. In some ways, the Task Force has been successful in building awareness about forest carbon among forest stakeholders in Indonesia. National civil society organisations, in particular, appear to be supportive of REDD+; however, they emphasise ‘co-benefits’ framed as ‘BeyondCarbon’, informed by social and environmental justice.For others, however, forests remain sources of timber and land, and new strategies are required if REDD+ is to have substantial impacts on forest governance in Indonesia. The Task Force’s efforts reveal the difficult and contested processes through which global climate change programmes come to be embedded in national arenas.

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