Photo: RakyanBoyanTantular/Greenboxhouse.wordpress/flickr.com

REDD+ is a core component of current global climate change mitigation policy. Hailed by proponents as a win-win strategy for transforming global, national and local forest governance, critics are concerned its neoliberal environmental approach is ill-equipped for dealing with politicial contestations surrounding the drivers of tropical deforestation. This multi-level case study adopts a political ecology lens to critically examine the origins of REDD+ contestations and their effects in a flagship implementor, Indonesia, and one of its pilot provinces, Central Sulawesi, over the past decade. Despite a reduction in primary deforestation since 2016, empirical connections to REDD+ activities in Indonesia are tenuous, with other plausible explanations available. Indonesian forest loss continues, driven by oligarchic interests linked to palm oil, mining and timber, where corruption is a frequent modus operandi. Although the REDD+ pilots examined aimed to ensure local consent, they instead saw bureaucratic violence and reduced trust in the state. This thesis shows REDD+ involves the peripheralization of climate change policy from richer to poorer countries, increasing the severity of political contestations that must be overcome to deliver wished-for results.