03 Sept 2011
Ecuador’s Yasuni rainforest is home to more species of animals, plants, and insects than anywhere else in the world. It also happens to be home to 846 million barrels of oil worth a whopping $7.2 billion in revenue. The oil is buried beneath the Yasuni rainforest and the Ecuador government wants to keep it that way. Instead of digging up the oil and creating a revenue for the country, Ecuador has asked the developed world to pay to keep the oil where it is.
The Yasuni national park sits near the equator between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. It is also home to two isolated tribes; the Taromenane and Tagaeri. The oil was found in 2007 and represents around 20% of Ecuador’s oil reserves. Ecuador offered a bold idea last year to keep Yasuni untouched– raise money from developed countries to stop rainforest oil development.
The country has been seeking $3.6 billion, half of the revenue that could be generated, to guarantee that the one million-hectare rainforest reserve will remain untouched for a decade.
Joseph Zacuni, International Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International’s Climate, Justice and Energy Programme said of the proposal, “Not only could it pave the way for interesting initiatives to keep fossil fuels in the ground, there could be similar initiatives or moratoria – on logging and sustainable forest conservation, for example.”
Many other organizations and countries believe Ecuador’s proposal is a bold one, but a good one. Germany pledged $838 million to Ecuador and it is expected that Spain, Sweden, France and Switzerland will make generous contributions. However the deadline for funds is coming up fast at just 4 months away. If Ecuador doesn’t get the pledges it needs then the plan will fall short and could open the door to ruining the Yasuni rainforest.
Ecuador made the pledge last year to keep Yasuni free from oil drilling, but if the $3.6 billion from the international community does not come through for renewable energy and social welfare projects the proposal may be retracted. If that happens and drilling for oil begins in the region it would harm the rainforest, mess with the lives of the people who live in Yasuni, and could really harm the environment when 470 million tons of carbon dioxide is released from the ground.
Here’s hoping that the “little country with a big plan” can get the international support it needs to keep the rainforest intact.