Embedding Carbon Markets: Complicating Commodification of Ecosystem Services in Mexico's Forests

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Payments for ecosystem services (PES) are increasingly employed to address a range of environmental issues, including biodiversity conservation, watershed protection, and climate change mitigation. PES initiatives have gained momentum since the 1990s, and market enthusiasts have promoted them as not only cost effective but generative of social and ecological co-benefits for local communities. Whereas the neoliberalization and commodification of nature has been well explored in geographic and critical scholarship, there is a dearth of theoretically informed, empirically grounded research exploring the dynamics and outcomes of the formation of “markets for nature.” Our study applies theories of commodification and embeddedness to examine these themes in comparative cases of two emergent markets for forest-based carbon offsetting initiatives in Mexico: Scolel Té in Chiapas and the Integrator of Indigenous and Campesino Communities of Oaxaca (ICICO). Although developed over similar time periods and in contiguous states, the two cases vary greatly in the degree to which carbon has been commodified and the markets embedded within the socionatural systems of the sites of production. Through detailed case studies, we demonstrate how interactions of these markets with preexisting social relations, institutions, and social and cultural values—the stuff of embeddedness—are critical for understanding the outcomes associated with markets for ecosystem services. We conclude that greater embeddedness is likely to lead to more positive local outcomes but that the embedding of forest-based carbon markets requires considerable time and extensive networks of nonmarket support and is furthermore dependent on the structure and orientation of finance and the political, institutional, and economic agrarian context of the sites of production.






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Shapiro - Garza, E, and T Osborne (2017). Embedding Carbon Markets: Complicating Commodification of Ecosystem Services in Mexico's Forests. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 107(5). 10.1080/24694452.2017.1343657 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15221.

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Shapiro - Garza

Elizabeth Shapiro - Garza

Associate Professor of the Practice of Environmental Policy and Management in the Division of Environmental Science and Policy

Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Environmental Policy and Management at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She serves as the Faculty Director for Engaged Scholarship for Duke University, the Director for Community Engagement for the Duke University Superfund Research Center and the Director of the graduate Certificate in Community-Based Environmental Management. 

Shapiro-Garza is Human-Environment Geographer whose research explores the ways in which human communities interact with environmental initiatives and approaches meant to influence their management practices and behaviors and the role that broader economic, political or policy trends, as well as inequality in access to power and resources, play in those dynamics and outcomes. She is a broadly trained social scientist with a primary methodological specialization in qualitative methods and analysis. Depending on the questions raised, she collaborates with economists, ecologists, remote sensing specialists, and environmental and public health researchers. Applying the framing and methods from these multiple disciplines, she conducts research on the following topics:

  • Market-Based Environmental Policies and Programs
  • Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico                                                                       
  • Climate Change Mitigation through Forest-Based Carbon Offsetting in Peru and Mexico
  • Climate Change Adaptation by Smallholder Coffee Producers in Latin America
  • Environmental Health and Justice in North Carolina

In exploring these topics, she has partnered with agricultural cooperatives, indigenous communities, government agencies and community-based non-profits in Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and the southeastern United States. Her research is published in highly ranked, peer-reviewed journals in geography and in the fields of her collaborators, as well as in fora and formats relevant to the policy makers, practitioners and the communities with whom she partners. The most substantive funders of this scholarship are the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, the Tinker Foundation, and the International Institute for Impact Evaluation (3ie) Foundation.

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