Ecuador decree keeps oil companies at bay

Feb 24, 2009 01:00 AM

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, recently signed a decree that breathed new life into the country's pioneer proposal to keep its largest oil field permanently underground in one of the most pristine areas of rainforest in the world.
The Yasuni-ITT initiative, named for Yasuni National Park and the respective Ishpingo, Tampococha, and Tiputini oil reserves that lie underneath, was first launched in June 2007 and seeks international financial support to offset the country's forgone oil revenues.

Calling the agreement an "emblematic project" of the environmental policies of his government, Correa had originally set a one-year deadline to come up with the funds. However, after several extensions and a new financial model that hopes to use carbon credits to obtain needed funds, the decree is the latest signal that the proposal may just work.
Yasuni National Park is a UNESCO designated World Biosphere Reserve, renown for its high levels of biodiversity and endemic species. The Park is also home to two indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation.

The extension will now keep oil corporations at bay in the second largest area of untapped oil that remains in Ecuador, while the government seeks to raise funds by issuing carbon emission bonds in the European Trading System, obtaining donations from the public and private sector, and via debt cancellation. Oil exploitation in the geologically and geographically challenging ITT block has become less economically viable due to the current price of crude and unfavourable economic outlook.
"This is a great step in both the battle to save Yasuni and to move Ecuador towards a new post-petroleum development model," said Esperanza Martinez of Accion Ecologica, which has been leading the civil society campaign in support of the proposal. "While we believe that all of Yasuni National Park should be off limits to oil drilling and that the proposal should consider financial options other than emissions trading, we welcome this development and hopeit leads to the permanent protection of what is really the lifeblood of the Amazon."

The decree was also welcomed by Amazon Watch as an important advance in preventing another human and environmental disaster of the magnitude Texaco (now Chevron) left in its wake after drilling in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The oil company now faces an historic $ 27 bn sentence in an Ecuadorian court for its environmental contamination.
"The Yasuni National Park is an area of thriving, primary rainforest that protects a unique diversity of indigenous communities, animals and plants for the entire planet", said Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch Executive Director, "This is an important signal from the Correa administration that it is committed to the proposal. It bolsters the proposal's credibility and inspires confidence with the international community-two things that were lacking and previously hurting the proposal's chances at success."

Source / Amazon Watch
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