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Centre for International Environmental Studies

Counting Carbon: the Shaping of Low-Carbon Landscapes and Environmental Justice in Colombia

Funding Organisation: Leading House for the Latin American Region, University of St.Gallen
Timeline: 2023-2024
Budget: 45'880 CHF


This project analyses how local socio-environmental relations are transformed in Colombia by climate-change mitigation programs within a nature-based-solutions (NBS) framework. We focus on two Colombian carbon emissions reduction programs: Visión Amazonía (linked to reduction of deforestation), and Biocarbono (linked to changes in agrarian practices). Our analysis centers on two sets of questions: 1) will the carbon-accounting efforts of these programs result in subjecting local landscapes to a homogenizing quantification of heterogeneous relations? and 2) how will they transform socio-environmental relations in ways that might jeopardize or increase environmental justice? These questions are pertinent given the critical political juncture in Colombia, where a new leftist administration plans to take up climate action as an important part of its rural development plans, and as a tenet to the implementation of the 2016 Peace Accords with FARC guerrillas.

In 2021 a partnership was established between a Swiss-based group working on agricultural mitigation projects and a Colombian-based group focusing on reduction of deforestation programs (REDD+). Collectively we investigated the Colombian institutional frameworks of carbon-accounting. Our next step is to analyze the implementation of these frameworks on the ground. For this purpose, we will carry out multi-sited ethnography of the Visión Amazonía and Biocarbono programs, including participant observation, social cartography, and interviews with local communities and institutional stakeholders.

Through a comparative analysis of these programs and in collaboration with local communities, we set out to generate knowledge that is useful to climate action, local communities, and grassroots movements working for environmental justice. Expected results include two peer-review articles, a policy report, two four-day workshops bringing together the Swiss and Colombian research teams, and two events with the communities of the fieldwork sites discussing the results.



  • Project Co-Investigator: Shaila Seshia Galvin, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, Geneva Graduate Institute
  • Project Co-Investigator: Laura María Gutiérrez Escobar, Associate Professor, Facultad de Filosofía, Instituto de Bioética
  • Project Manager: Diego Silva, Postdoctoral Researcher, Anthropology and Sociology, Geneva Graduate Institute