Land use impacts of the clean development mechanism in a telecoupled world

PhD fellow: Louise Marie Busck Lumholt

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

About me

I come from Copenhagen in Denmark where I just recently finished my Master’s degree in agricultural development with primary focus on forest management and participatory approaches to natural resource governance. I spent six months in Arabuko-Sokoke forest in Coastal Kenya, collaborating with local NGOs and local authorities on an investigation of impacts from Participatory Forest Management in the area. I have been working for various environmental NGOs as well as doing municipal work with community involvement in urban planning.
My combined profile mirrors my interest in interdisciplinary research which I find essential to develop further to understand and solve the crosscutting challenges characterizing natural resource governance. I was determined to do my PhD through COUPLED because I believe that the concepts and principles communicated in the program offer an enabling research environment to collectively find ways to meet these challenges. COUPLED corresponds directly to my aspiration to participate in a research project that considers the interconnected nature of sustainability while contributing to strengthening collaboration and bridge building between the scientific environment and private and public organisations.
My PhD will focus on forestry projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) with an investigation of environmental impacts, social outcomes, and discursive and financial flows that influence project development. I will do so from an integrated approach, using qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate and analyse land use and land-use changes, do estimations of income/knowledge/capital related to the forest, and identify the links between policy decisions and project outcome.

My research will help fill out the knowledge gap about the dynamics between impacts associated with market-based approaches to conservation. I will prioritize continuous communication of the results to guide current and future project development in the forest sector.


Climate change has been considered one of the most challenging environmental problems of our time. Decisions adopted at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ensuing treaty and accord, i.e. the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2015), have resulted in the implementation worldwide – to a more or less extent – of a suite of policies to halt greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of this global phenomenon. In this context, responses such as the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the more recent REDD+ framework have aimed to reduce energy-related emissions and incentivize sustainable land use governance through carbon markets in the global South. The direct and indirect consequences of CDM and REDD+ activities on social-ecological systems are yet to be fully understood.

Against this background, this research project will:

  • Study four comparable CDM forestry projects – potentially in Colombia and Uganda – to evaluate the resulting land-use changes in terms of their extent and management using forest cover/growth data and changes in ecosystem services as indicators,
  • Examine the social outcomes of the projects (income, social capital, forest management knowledge, etc.), and
  • Analyse the discursive and financial flows that have eased (or undermined) project development, and trace these to European policy decisions using secondary data on CDM decisions and funding and in situ data collection including questionnaires and interviews with project stakeholders.

In doing so, the research project will create knowledge and data on the additionality and environmental impacts of carbon forestry projects, evidence on land-use spill-over effects at project and regional level, and develop recommendations for CDM (and for future REDD+ projects) on how to ensure environmental and social effectiveness while avoiding undesirable spill-overs.

Principal Supervisor: Esteve Corbera (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ICTA – Institut de Ciènca i Tecnologia Ambientals)


Louise Marie Busck Lumholt

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ICTA – Institut de Ciènca i Tecnologia Ambientals, Spain

 UAB Campus, 08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanoyla del Vallès), Spain