Ecuador’s Unique Idea: Pay Us Not To Drill Amazon Oil


President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has put forward a novel idea known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. He proposed not to touch the estimated 900million barrel oil reserve under the Amazon Rain Forest if the international community will compensate Ecuador. The president is asking for $350 million annually- half the estimated revenue that crude oil from the remote Yasuni National Park would be expected to generate for the next 12 years. So far, Germany and Spain have expressed an interest in the plan. Mr. Correa is also seeking the support of Canada, France, Sweden, Belgium, and the United States.

The good news is that there would be benefits for the global community if the consensus is for not drilling the oil. Among those advantages are protecting biodiversity in the Amazon, respecting the rights of the indigenous people who live on the land, and helping to combat climate change. Also, if the no-drill plan is accepted, environmentalists believe that it could set a precedent in the fight against global warming by lowering the high cost to poor countries of going green.

The bad news is that it is not easy to get paid for leaving known oil reserves in the ground, instead of selling it. Countries are not very willing to “walk the talk”. The plan was proposed since 2007, and though there have been expressions of interest, there have also been several unmet deadlines and extensions over the period. Additionally,
Ecuador is a poor country. Though a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it gets one third of its national budget from oil. Time is running out, Aljazeera reports, as oil companies are waiting to commence drilling.

President Correa, however, continues to make his argument, stating that not drilling for the oil would keep 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That figure has caught the attention of greenconscious governments in Europe, where the prospect of providing financial help to poor countries to enable efforts to improve infrastructure that will reduce the release of greenhouse gasses is an issue of concern. Observers hope that countries committing to the project would genuinely support a creative way to combat climate change, and not decide to drill for themselves in the future.