After several years of trying to protect one of the most undeveloped parts of the Amazonian rainforest, Ecuador has ended an attempt to get the rest of the world to contribute money to offset that nation’s need to exploit the region for its oil wealth. The Yasuni National Park is an incredibly biodiverse, undeveloped region in eastern Ecuador, on the border of Peru. The park comprises an area of 9,820 square kilometers (3,792 sq. miles) in the headwaters of the Amazon. There are also an estimated 800 million barrels of crude oil in the region.
As with conservation land trusts, and carbon offsets, and similar kinds of preservation efforts, the government of Ecuador sought payment equal to half of the oil’s commercial value ($3.6 billion in 2007) in exchange for leaving it untouched and remaining in the ground. Not only would that prevent the damage that development of the region for oil production would cause, but it would also help to sequester that volume of oil from eventually adding to the growing amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
To date, there has been little support for this initiative. Only a tiny portion ($6.5 million) of the money that Ecuador sought has been offered, so President Rafael Correa has now announced an end to the program:
President Correa said scrapping the program was one of the hardest decisions of his presidency. «The real dilemma is this,» he said in a televised address last week. «Do we protect 100 percent of the Yasuní and have no resources to meet the urgent needs of our people, or do we save 99 percent of it and have $18 billion to fight poverty?»
While the premise seemed to make good sense from a global perspective, its timing couldn’t have been worse; the proposal was begun in 2007, just as the financial crises triggering the Great Recession were flaring up. This shouldn’t necessarily be read as a failure of the approach in general, but rather a first, grand-scale attempt that didn’t work out. Hopefully there will be future attempts like this, and they will have better results.
via: NPR – Planet Money