Central Kalimantan has been selected as the primary REDD+ pilot in Indonesia. In its peatlands expectations of payments for carbon emission reduction currently shape the discourse over natural resource management as a means of influencing policy and exercising power. Different types of actors use their own interpretation of history, facts, rules and norms to support their claims. Shifting national policies have over the past decades shaped the distribution of power and actual use of peatland. Actions to reduce emissions will need to appreciate the institutional complexity.