In the year 2010, Norway signed an agreement to provide Indonesia with up to USD 1 billion if the latter could prove it had reduced its high carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and peat lands (Letter of Intent 2010). This research focuses on the resulting schemes for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in Indonesia since the signing of this bilateral deal. It explores the many setbacks, controversies and challenges REDD+ has encountered over the past few years in Indonesia, as well as the schemes’ achievements in contributing to addressing longstanding social conflicts related to Indigenous Peoples rights and land tenure. Using the lens of two REDD+ pilots in Central Sulawesi and via field interviews and focus group discussions in Jakarta, Bogor, and Palu and its surrounding environs, the research explores why these pilots ran into difficulties and had to be abandoned in one location, but not in another. The analysis reflects on core theoretical narratives from the field of political ecology to show how the results of these two REDD+ pilots were conditioned by social histories at local implementation sites, including the relationships between villagers and their ecological environment, their relationships with each other and with the state bureaucracy. The empirical evidence presented here is used to draw out a theoretical discussion on what might best be described as deficiencies of emphasis in the existing political ecology literature. Finally, some tentative thoughts with regard to the possible improvement of REDD+ policies and practices in Indonesia are considered.

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