In a first-of-its kind agreement, Ecuador has pledged to not to develop the 850 million barrels of crude oil under Yasuni National Park for the next 10 years in return for $3.6 billion from the United Nations. The park is one of the most biodiverse expanses of rainforest in the world, a single hectare of which boasts more species of trees than in all of North America.
Eco-extortion or Good Conservation Policy?
Critics of the agreement, which has been in the works for years, say Ecuador is engaging in environmental extortion: “pay up or the rainforest gets it” was the gist of one headline. But this kind of “payment for ecosystem services” is not unprecedented. On a more human scale, it could involve funding start up costs for small businesses of would-be loggers to run ecotourism services instead of cutting down trees or payments to farmers near rivers to cultivate riparian zones rather than crops or to erect fences to keep livestock out of the waterways.
This payment from the UN to a national budget is bit different but Ecuador says it plans to use the money to fund renewable energy development. The money will come in the form of a trustfund established by other nations to preserve the rainforest.
Who’s Getting the Better Deal in the UN-Ecuador Yashuni Agreement?
The oil under Yashuni represents 20% of Ecuador’s total oil reserves and could fetch $70 billion dollars if it were all recovered and sold at today’s prices. Leaving it alone would avoid approximately 400 metric tons of CO2 pollution as well as any environmental damages from the drilling itself. In addition to the agreed payment from the UN, Ecuador hopes to trade credits for the avoided CO2 emissions in any carbon trading system developed to address climate change.
Has Ecuador Seen the Dirty Side of the Oil Business?
Care2 bloggers have covered issues surrounding the oil industry in Ecuador before. Chevron is engaged in a protracted and expensive legal battle over oil spills and toxic waste left behind by decades of drilling. Sign the petition to ask Chevron to clean up its mess.
Kevin Koenig, Ecuador coordinator for Amazon Watch in Ecuador, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal stating: “This is a big win for Ecuador, and the world. Now we need more countries to contribute, and for President (Rafael) Correa to keep his word.”
What do you think?
South American yellow-footed tortoise in Yasuni Nationa Park, Equador by Flickr user Geoff Gallice. Used by Creative Commons License.
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