The neoliberalization of climate action: A precautionary critique from Nagaland, India

Authors: Osensang Pongen*, University of South Florida
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Indigenous Peoples, Economic Geography
Keywords: ecosystem services valuation, neoliberal conservation, Nagaland, India, climate action
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There are several studies and reports that explore the growing interests and concerns regarding ecosystem services valuation (ESV) and Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) initiatives in India, including exponents of climate action who are currently probing its prospects in Nagaland. Given India’s unique constitutional provision for customary land and resource rights in Nagaland, and the recent self-imposed biodiversity conservation restrictions through Community Conservation Areas, the area presents an ideal site to explore the intersection of Indigenous land-use management and institutionalized conservation programs. Moreover, such an exploration necessitates a theoretically informed critique of the potential discursive contestations, outcomes, and risks entailed by neoliberalizing conservation in peripheral nation-state spaces. These concerns are grounded in extensive on-going academic discussion and policy debates about the nexus of ESV and the commodification of nature – which range from purported equitable communal management of natural commons, to criticisms of neoliberal environmentality. Recent studies also indicate that non-monetary and non-material impacts of past PES programs in developing countries are questionable with diverging outcomes in different localities. Additionally, the celebrated benefits of PES are often overhyped by market proponents who severely under-represent the risks and costs for vulnerable rural populations living under unclear and insecure land tenure. In this context, this paper critiques the philosophical and epistemological assumptions that underpin ESV and its problematic relations with differential power, vulnerability, and risk.

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