Almost Perfect Yasuni Deal

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Promotion video of Ecuador’s Yasuni Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) initiative

In May, Jonas Rey reported about a plan by the government of Ecuador to forgo the extraction of oil in its Yasuni region in exchange for money. The goal is to prevent the emission of 407 million metric tons of CO2 and at the same time protect a piece of tropical rainforest, which is considered to be the most biologically diverse place on earth.

The plan developed by the economist Alberto Acosta was first met with skepticism by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who thought it inappropriate for his former energy minister to come up with such an idea. Finally endorsed by the president, it began to materialize when on the 4 August Ecuador agreed with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to establish a trust fund, which would manage financial contributions by donors.

The UNDP has experience in managing such funds through its Multi Donor Trust Fund Office, which already administers more than 30 funds covering 74 countries. The balance sheet of the Ecuador Yasuni ITT Trust Fund is still at zero, but according to Swiss Radio DRS, Germany, France and Spain are considering payment to the fund, of which Ecuador will only receive the interest. The capital is kept as security, in case Ecuador changes its mind and drills oil in the region after all.

What looks like an innovative and promising scheme to link climate policy, environmental protection and sustainable development, also has its disadvantages. The initiative is intended, according to its proponents, to protect two tribes of the Huaorani indigenous people, which renounce any contact with modern civilization. According to a local expert, who talked to Swiss Radio DRS, however, the tribes do not live in the area protected by the scheme but in an area designated by the Ecuadorian government for crude oil extraction. The protected area supposedly consists of swamps not inhabitable by people.

For potential donors far away it’s difficult to judge what the effects of this initiative will ultimately be. However, as the broadcast points out, the protection of the environment should not come at the expense of human beings and vice versa. People and their environment need to be considered together. I encourage countries, companies and individuals to contribute money to the fund. Yet, it’s not too late to change the plan to better respect the indigenous people.

Find an evaluation of the Ecuadorian proposal in our Digital Library.

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