For almost two decades, the concept of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) has been widely adopted in Indonesia, in policy initiatives ranging from pilot projects to more established PES schemes and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programmes. Drawing on a case study of a REDD+ initiative in Aceh, Indonesia, this article analyses how the initiative became an avenue to renegotiate political authority, territory and citizenship. Analysis of relevant documents, combined with focus group discussions and interviews at local and national levels, reveals the complex processes by which the authority to govern forest is claimed and legitimized through the revision of provincial land-use plans, and shows how citizenship is rearticulated through participatory mapping processes. The article demonstrates that the initiative has been negotiated and reshaped to conform to local aspirations for greater control over forests and to achieve broader development goals. The discourses of green economy and REDD+ have provided the Aceh government and communities with a new 'surface of engagement' to express Acehnese struggles over territory and citizenship by aligning with global climate change issues.