The University of Arizona

Reforming global carbon markets or re-imagining alternative climate solutions and sustainabilities? An analysis of selected NGO strategies in Uganda

Kristen Lyons, Peter Westoby, Adrian Nel


Abstract Carbon markets have emerged globally as a central feature in market based strategies to address the climate crisis. Global trade in carbon is based on the premise that it is possible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and stabilise the earth's climate, while at the same time generating new forms of capital accumulation. Amongst carbon market initiatives includes Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) type projects, that connect peasant and subsistence farmers in the south with northern consumers and industries. These projects are expanding on the African continent, giving rise to social, economic and ecological impacts. In this article we chart the responses of social movements to carbon markets. Through a study of selected NGOs active in carbon market campaigns in Uganda, we examine the strategies and tactics of movements in responding to the expanding carbon economy. Our findings demonstrate NGOs' approaches move between, and across, reformist and rebel (or radical) change agendas. Dominant strategies are directed towards reforming carbon markets and associated forestry governance. Meanwhile, a rebel, or radical change agenda – including rejecting the language and ideology of carbon trade, alongside building autonomous local level rights based movements – emerges in the constrained spaces of both privatised green economic governance and a militarised state. Given the constrained opportunities for radical movement organising, and the frequent institutionalization and limited influence of NGOs, increasing understandings of these radical change agendas and their contributions for re-imagining alternative sustainabilities is significant for scholars, activists and practitioners alike. Key words: Carbon markets, REDD, Uganda, alternative sustainabilities

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