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The biopolitics of carbon accounting in Indonesia’s forests
journal contributionposted on 06.07.2021, 22:17 by Henry J Boer
Across developing countries substantial effort and resources have been dedicated to setting up systems for the measurement, recording and verification of greenhouse gas emissions in the forestry and land-use sectors – a key initiative of the global climate programme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. This paper approaches these systems through the lens of conservation biopolitics, identifying the calculative processes and spatial logics that attempt to regulate the life and death of the forest. It uses an example of the Indonesian National Carbon Accounting System to explore how a biopolitical apparatus of constant data accumulation and presentation integrates an infinitely complex set of ecological processes across highly differentiated spatial landscapes, and organises these into governable carbon domains. The Indonesian National Carbon Accounting System provides a visual and numeric representation of the various policy and socio-economic processes that drive and limit carbon emissions, and identifies where this occurs in the landscape. By understanding these forest–carbon–human dynamics, programmes can be designed that change how populations access, use and potentially restore the life of the forest. For state and non-state interests alike, the System was viewed as a critical tool for both developing and evaluating the performance of multiple forest carbon initiatives. It also offers a surveillance apparatus to regulate the carbon market and to discipline the actions of various agents that utilise forests and land. Critically, the biopolitical utility of these systems have been undermined by waning commitment within Indonesia to overhaul forest governance towards carbon outcomes.