This doctoral dissertation research will assess efforts to attain the potentially competing goals of a major United Nations-sponsored climate change mitigation initiative through a case study of the Ulu Masen project in Aceh, Indonesia, one of the largest and most well-established such projects in the world. The United Nations originally conceived of its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative exclusively as a market based climate change mitigation strategy. Under pressure from critics, the UN and other agencies have recently expanded the program?s agenda to include conservation and sustainable human development goals (REDD+), hence the "plus." This re-envisioning of REDD promised a "triple win" solution because it simultaneously promoted green economic growth (via carbon markets), protected the environment, and enhanced local community well-being. To date, robust empirical studies that gauge the effectiveness of the broader REDD+ policy agenda have been absent. Existing studies have tended to focus on technical issues related to implementation whereas this study will specifically examine critical questions to assess the abilities of the REDD+ project to contribute to the conservation and development of the region in which it is being implemented. Fieldwork in two village sites in the Ulu Masen area, Banda Aceh will be conducted over a period of ten months, during which time data will be gathered via a household survey, focus group discussions, participant observation, semi-structured and in-depth interviews, and archival research.

The proposed research will contribute to a better understanding of REDD+ in the climate change literature through documenting and analyzing the set of innovations that have been implemented under the 'plus' in REDD+ initiatives. It will constitute an empirical study that analyzes the effectiveness of the expanded agenda envisioned by REDD+ policy makers. The proposed study will also examine the significance of local agency in shaping the global REDD+ agenda. Given that the REDD+ project is being implemented in Indonesia, the world?s second largest contributor of carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and one of its most critical biodiversity hotspots, suggest its potential for close monitoring as a model for future climate mitigation initiatives. The broader impact of the new knowledge created by this research will be to assist policy makers to develop better tools for the assessment of climate change mitigation projects, thereby ensuring that such projects are more likely to improve human development and empower forest dependent communities in the future. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.

Project Report

The United Nations originally conceived of its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative exclusively as a market based climate change mitigation strategy. Under pressure from critics, the UN and other agencies have recently expanded the program’s agenda to include conservation and sustainable human development goals (REDD+). This re-envisioning of REDD promised a "triple win" solution because it simultaneously promoted green economic growth (via carbon markets), protected the environment, and enhanced local community well-being. To date, robust empirical studies that gauge the effectiveness of the broader REDD+ policy agenda are lacking. Understanding the processes and politics of REDD+ development and implementation is crucial to assess efforts to attain the potentially competing goals of REDD+. Through a case study of Ulu Masen REDD+ project, the research objectives are: 1) Examining the project rationales and goals that are subsumed under the "plus" in REDD+ project implementation; 2) Investigating the processes and politics of project development and implementation; 3) Assessing efforts to attain potentially competing goals of conservation and development under REDD+ project implementation; 4) Examining the significance of local agency to shape the global REDD+ agenda and the extent to which it provides an arena to negotiate and contest claims to forest resources at the local level. The proposed research deepens theoretical debates in the emerging critical climate change literature through documenting and analyzing the set of innovations that have been implemented under the "plus" in REDD+ initiatives. The broader impact of the new knowledge created by this research will be to assist policy makers to develop better tools for the assessment of climate change mitigation projects, and thereby ensure that such projects are more likely to improve human development and empower forest dependent communities in the future. To guide our inquiries, multiple methods were used including a household survey, focus group discussions, participant observation, semi-structured and in-depth interviews, and archival research. In 2011-2012, co-PI Abidah Setyowati conducted 12 months of dissertation fieldwork in Indonesia. During that time she collected 75 household surveys in two selected research sites, conducted focus group discussions with women and men involving nearly 80 participants; conducting interviews with 58 key informants at national, provincial and village levels. The co-PI has shared initial findings to some stakeholders in four events in Indonesia. The initial findings have also been presented in conferences (including AAG annual meeting). Further dissemination is expected in the future through publications and presentations at the annual meetings of major relevant scientific societies. Data analysis is ongoing but preliminary results suggest the following: first, despite the claims that REDD+ could deepen market-based instruments in governing the forests, in reality its implementation has been shaped by on-the-ground politics which continue to be strongly influenced by the state’s intervention. The study also finds that the provincial government has strategically utilized the project as an avenue to gain increasing control over forest resources. Second, social and political context where REDD+ project is being implemented significantly contributes to the project and determines the project outcomes. In the case study of Ulu Masen REDD+, the project is currently in a complete standstill due to the change of political situation. Furthermore, the dynamics of project implementation in the context of decentralization highlights the power struggle between the central and local government in governing access to forests. Third, coordinating conservation and development goals through REDD+ is not an easy task especially when the initiative is implemented in post-conflict and post-disaster area, such as Aceh, Indonesia. Based on the interview with project proponents, the project success would be measured based on enhancement of carbon stock and forest conservation indicators. Development indicators have not been developed yet. At the project level, the project primarily focuses on conservation activities and the creation of alternative livelihood activities is positioned as an entry point to achieve the broader conservation agenda, in which the targeted beneficiaries are limited to those who help patrol and protect the forest resources. Despite the project proponents’ endeavors to implement conservation measures and activities and mainstream ‘sustainable development’ in the province, mobilizing supports from other agencies at the province and district levels, which clearly have different development priorities, is challenging. It is, however, too early to gauge how the REDD+ project could contribute to development and conservation in the region. Finally, since the project inception, community members have been minimally involved in the REDD+ consultation meetings. The project proponents only involve indigenous and village leaders in series of consultation meetings at the district levels. Based on the household survey in both villages, only 6 percent of respondents understand about REDD+ project. There is no clear benefit sharing mechanism of REDD+ in place yet. Such limited involvement of local actors in the project design and implementation could potentially lead to elite captures and further marginalize social groups or individuals in the communities.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-09-01
Budget End
2013-08-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$11,320
Indirect Cost
Name
Rutgers University
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
New Brunswick
State
NJ
Country
United States
Zip Code
08901