By Jeremy Hance, www.mongabay.com
August 03, 2010
In what may amount to a historic moment in the quest to save the world's rainforests and mitigate climate change, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDF) have created a trust fund to protect one of the world's most biodiverse rainforests from oil exploration and development. The fund will allow the international community to pay Ecuador to leave an estimated 850 million barrels of oil in Yasuni National Park in the ground instead of extracting it. This first-of-its-kind agreement, known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, will allow the rainforest protected area to remain pristine: preserving one of the most species-rich places on Earth, safeguarding the lives of indigenous people, and keeping an estimated 410 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
"We welcome this long sought after final step to protect an important part of Yasuni National Park," said Kevin Koenig, the Ecuador Coordinator with Amazon Watch. "This is a big win for Ecuador, and the world. Now we need more countries to contribute, and for [Ecuadorian] President Correa to keep his word."
Ecuador is asking for $3.6 US billion from international donors over the next ten years to keep the oil in the ground; the amount is half of what Ecaudor expected to receive if it developed the park. Oil is Ecuador's biggest exporter and the nation's economy remains largely dependent on the fossil fuel. But oil has also brought the nation trouble with pollution, disease, forest destruction, and conflict with indigenous people.
To date, a number of European nations have stepped forward with promises of pledges, although only Germany has put forward a hard number: $838 US million. It has been reported that Spain is likely to put in around a quarter billion, while France, Sweden, and Switzerland are also expected to contribute hefty donations each. In all, approximately half of the $3.6 US billion has already been raised. …