Monthly Archives: December 2012

Governing International Climate Risk in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ntondo Village WomenClimate change is expected to have particularly adverse effects on developing countries for a host of reasons. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, where MCP ’12 Ian Gray did his thesis research, people are at risk because of the high percentage of the population that is subject to subsistence living and complete dependence on forest resources for survival.

The DRC, along with other countries facing similar challenges, is expected to grow its economy and stabilize carbon emissions at the same time. While the country works to develop policies that meet each objective individually, Ian argues that they tend to fall into a process that Sheila Jasanoff calls “co-production,” or a dialectic in which efforts to change the natural order depend on unquestioned ideas about the social order, and vice-versa.

After spending three months doing ethnographic work in the DRC’s Ministry of Environment, Ian came to the conclusion that the instrumental goals of making carbon governable in the DRC ran a high risk of reproducing embedded inequities found at the local level. Ian argues that if REDD* architecture is to live up to its stated goal of protecting forests while improving livelihoods, it must engage in more explicit co-productionist politics of carbon management. He says this means developing overt mechanisms that provide more continuous interactions between different epistemic communities in the REDD eligible countries (including international experts, national administrators, land users and local communities) and linking local level institutions with larger scales of administration to set rules for carbon management. Ian also suggests strengthening community control of resources so local groups play a larger role in defining for whom, and for what, carbon sequestration is good. Read Ian’s full thesis here and share your thoughts on this topic in the EPP Facebook Group.

*UN-REDD is the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries

Planning for Climate Change Induced Resettlement: Learning from Contrasting Approaches in China and the USA

Climate change induced resettlement is a reality some communities are already facing, and may become increasingly necessary as the planet warms and weather patterns change. The ways in which communities plan for and conduct resettlement are likely to be consistent with the ways in which they have traditionally made decisions, reflecting their disparate socio-political and economic dynamics. It is, therefore, instructional to consider how communities have responded to similar situations in the past so we can understand how they might respond in the future. By better understanding the various paths followed in similar situations, but under very different regimes, we can identify the strengths and weaknesses of various governance models, extracting lessons for resettlement planning.

This thesis research examined cases in two very different places: The resettlement of Tibetan nomads in Qinghai, China, and the resettlement of some New Orleanians post-Hurricane Katrina. The approach in China might be described as authoritarian, favoring scientific management by a cadre of professional central government planners. The American approach is more market-oriented, with less government involvement.


A qualitative examination of these two cases suggests that each approach offers strengths and weaknesses. For better or worse, the Chinese approach tackles the resettlement question proactively, using information to make decisive decisions. The government provides a standard level of support for all families and holds itself responsible for what happens. In contrast, uncertainty around the impacts of climate change, the inadequate dissemination and consideration of information, resource constraints, and resistance to government intervention make proactive decision making in the American context difficult.

The Chinese approach has some serious shortcomings – resettlement plans are largely generic and thus insensitive to individual needs and preferences. Officials hold a great deal of authority that can be used nefariously. The American approach allows for a much greater diversity of responses and leaves choices to those with the ability to marshal resources, but often neglects those who have traditionally been marginalized. Non-governmental organizations are left to fill the void in the American context. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. Read Todd’s full thesis here.