Indigenous shifting agriculture has been criticized for its negative effects on forest carbon stocks and mitigation policies have consequently fostered different forest management approaches. This has caused land disputes with indigenous populations in countries of the South, who have lost access to livelihood resources, finding themselves forced to change their traditional ways of life. This paper argues that such mitigation policies may not only fuel conflict, but further can be ineffective regarding their mitigation potential, because they build upon reductionist carbon assessments. A socio-ecological long-term and landscape perspective is needed that considers not only climate footprints of altered land use systems, but also of changing livelihood systems, which so far have not been studied at all. From that perspective, commonly employed plot-based assessments of terrestrial carbon stocks are unable to track the spatial and temporal dynamics of greenhouse gas flows of the wider socio-ecological systems of which they form part of. Significant spillover and feedback loops can however be expected across land use systems, livelihood systems and socio-economic sectors: permanent, area-efficient agriculture - able to spare out land for forest regrowth - is achieved by subsidizing land with carbon-intensive fertilizers, transport and machinery. Former carbon-neutral incomes may be increasingly substituted by fossil-carbon dependent incomes, due to people’s engagement in the new industries or dependency on carbon offset payments generated by polluting industries. While according to socio-ecological transition studies, these newly created climate footprints are expected to increase in the long-term, carbon sequestration through recovering forests is decreasing and limited over time, potentially rendering such mitigation policies ineffective over the long term. The paper offers conceptual considerations to address and overcome reductionist carbon accounts, in order to prevent conflict arising from inadequate and contentious mitigation policies.
Undisciplined Environments - International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE). March 20-24, 2016.
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Scheidel, A. (2016). Accumulation by development: The key role of poverty reduction narratives for resource capture in rural Cambodia. Presented at the Undisciplined Environments - International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE). March 20-24, 2016. Retrieved from