In the market for carbon: conventions, coordination and narratives of voluntary carbon offsetting in Chiapas, Mexico

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This dissertation aims at investigating how global narratives on forest carbon offsetting create value and influence what carbon markets deliver, how and for whom. It engages a conventions theoretical framework and a discourse analytical approach to analyze different conventions mobilized in the narratives used by actors in the carbon value chain. A case study of the Scolel Té forest carbon offsetting program in Chiapas, Mexico is examined. The ideological and material values and meanings that are emphasized in stories about forest carbon offsetting influence the support for these approaches and also transmit pro-environmental values to forest carbon offset producers. This dissertation demonstrates how actors at different scales mobilize conventions to both support the creation and valorization of carbon offsetting activities and to influence how communities manage tropical forests. At the same time, incoherencies between wider narrative claims that focus on delivering local benefits mobilize consumers of carbon offsets yet clash with producer motivations and perceptions of incentives to change environmental behavior. Empirical results further illustrate how discourses of carbon offsetting circulate bi-directionally between scales, and how local perceptions of discourses of climate and environmental change are taken up differently (or not) and reflected in the everyday practices of forest and agricultural activities, and how conventions create value in offset markets which is adapted to local institutions and mobilized by producers for different aims (e.g., to gain credibility and legitimacy). These findings suggest that considering both material incentives and discursive constructions could contribute to better understanding the so-called “non-carbon” values embedded in carbon forestry and further explore the socio-economic motivations to support carbon markets, to produce and consume carbon offsets, as well as the unintended consequences for producers of voluntary carbon offsets
Date of Award15 Sept 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Università degli Studi di Roma-Sapienza
Supervisor Cary Yungmee Hendrickson (Director) & Esteve Corbera Elizalde (Director)

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