In the peatlands of Central Kalimantan, expectations of payments for reducing carbon emissions shape the discourse over natural resource management as a means of influencing policy and exercising power. Different types of actors have their own choice of argument and interpretation of facts, rules and norms over resource use or conservation. This article examines the discursive strategies used by contestants in the struggle over property rights in a failed development project ('ex-Mega Rice Area') in Central Kalimantan and traces their changes and developments in the justification for policy influence in the face of REDD++ implementation. Shifting national policy priorities have affected the distribution of power that shapes the practice and use of forest peatland. The case study highlights the historical baggage of perceived injustice between state and local communities and the contest between national and provincial government authorities that complicates the debate on current efforts to mitigate climate change by emission reduction.