Fixing Carbon, Losing Ground: Payments for Environmental Services and Land (IN)Security in Mexico

Tracey Osborne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Community-based carbon forestry has grown rapidly in Chiapas over the last decade, where small farmers with communal land tenure are increasingly turning to forest activities as a supplement to income. Communal land rights, however, are under siege because of neoliberal shifts in agrarian reform that make the privatization of communal land a legal possibility for the first time in generations. In this paper, I argue that the requirements of Mexico's national Payment for Environmental Services (PES) program for legible boundaries and the long-term storage of carbon appear to be facilitating land certification, the initial step toward privatization. This is being accomplished through a new set of governing technologies and rationalities associated with land security. As national and state level bureaucracies retreat from providing social supports, they simultaneously enable market-driven sustainable development initiatives that require the certification of land. Combined with the logics and simplifications necessary for the commodification of nature, project participants’ ideological commitments to land security have facilitated certification and an internal land market. I argue that certification, by itself, drives local land markets, producing land insecurity without privatization. This, in turn, threatens land access for the most marginalized members of communities. I illustrate the ways in which this phenomenon has played out in La Corona, a community in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Geography(United Kingdom)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Mexico
  • México
  • Pagos por Servicios Ambientales
  • Payments for Environmental Services
  • REDD
  • REDD+
  • captura de carbono
  • carbon forestry
  • ecología política
  • expropiación de terrenos
  • green land grab
  • political ecology
  • privatización
  • privatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Philosophy


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