In pursuit of procedural justice: Lessons from an analysis of 56 forest carbon project designs

Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya*, Susan Caplow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In an effort to reduce the potential for negative social impacts in forest carbon projects, private third-party actors such as the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (Alliance) have established certification schemes (e.g. standards) to ensure that biodiversity and community livelihood goals are met through just means while also reaching carbon mitigation goals. Using a mixed methods approach including rigorous content analysis coupled with descriptive statistics on 56 Alliance project design documents, this paper seeks to understand: 1) the extent to which projects seeking Alliance certification responded to the standards criteria requiring local community participation in the project development process; and, 2) how the Alliance certification standards can serve as an instrument for procedural justice and thus contribute to narrowing the social justice gap in global forest governance. We find that while the standards could potentially help address this governance gap by serving as standards of justice, evidence suggests that projects are not fulfilling requirements to facilitate procedural justice. We suggest that the lack of information and attention to stakeholder processes represents a substantial hurdle for facilitating procedural justice for impacted communities, suggesting that forest carbon (including REDD+) projects may result in the same threats to communities and livelihoods as past forest governance interventions. Furthermore, our findings signal the possibility of future credibility problems for the Alliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)968-979
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Environmental justice
  • Forest carbon
  • Global environmental governance
  • Voluntary carbon certification standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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