Leaving Ecuador's oil in the ground

Issue 

"The innovative offer by the government of Ecuador to refrain from exploiting its largest oil reserve, in exchange for international compensation for nature conservation, is attracting increasing support", according to an August 23 IPS article. The initiative relates to the untapped Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil reserve, which is located in Yasuni National Park in the Amazon. According IPS, the park is one of the world's most biodiverse regions. It was created in 1979 and covers 982,000 hectares.

Ecuador is an impoverished country largely dependent on its oil industry for income. The initiative came from grassroots environmental organisations such as Accion Ecologica, and the idea has since been taken up by Ecuador's left-wing president, Rafael Correa.

IPS reported: "The slogans 'Yasuni Belongs to Everyone' and 'Yes to Life, No to ITT', painted on the walls in Quito and other Ecuadorean cities in the last few days, are a sign that something new is happening in this country."

Ecuador has suspended drilling of ITT for one year while it seeks support for its initiative. It claims that the environmental damage caused by drilling in the park would adversely affect all of humanity, both via the destruction caused in the act of drilling and the contribution to global warming the extracted oil would make. Ecuador is seeking to raise US$350 million per year, which amounts to half of what the state oil industry could expect to earn if it extracted the oil.

After 10 years, contributions would begin to lower, as Ecuador will have had time to develop alternative sources of revenue. According to IPS, there have so far been more than 100 expressions of interest in backing the initiative, including from the Norwegian and Spanish governments. Former Ecuadorian energy minister Alberto Accosta has also suggested foreign creditors cancel Ecuador's foreign debt in return for not drilling.

IPS reported that the initiative is based on achieving four aims: "the need to combat climate change, curb the destruction of biodiversity, protect the Huaorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous people, and transform the country's economy by adopting a new development model".

"We know what oil is. It does not benefit us, it has only brought pollution", said Juan Enomenga, a leader of the Huaorani people who live in an area of Yasuni national park near the ITT.

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