Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO’
Hundreds of millions of barrels of oil are believed to exist underground Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO world biosphere reserve in eastern Ecuador. As one can imagine, there has been some interest in extracting these reserves. According to national and international scientists, this park is home to the greatest biodiversity on earth. The region is also the home to the Huaorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous peoples, who live sustainably within the confines of this park. Given the incredible value of the commodity that lies beneath the forests, there is significant economic pressure to uproot people, animals and earth. That is unless the Ecuadorian government can raise enough money to justify leaving the oil in the ground. The Ecuadorian government is hoping to be compensated for 50% of the income it will forgo by leaving the oil in the ground. This amounts to US$ 3.6 billion over a 13 year period, which is no small sum. However, the value of reserve, the ecosystem services it provides, and the greenhouse gases it keeps out of the atmosphere are equally valuable.
Following the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 (among others), the costs of exploiting oil and the impact that a major incident could have on people and their livelihoods, the oceans and the species that share them is increasingly and viscerally understood. The reality remains that the world relies of fossil fuels – and our appetite for them continues to increase. While we continue to pursue the expansion of renewable energy, the global economy is still very much tied to oil. While as a society we try to decrease our reliance on this form of energy and the impact it has on our climate, we can take bold, innovative and creative steps to protecting the environment. An investment in the Yasuni ITT Trust Fund represents an opportunity for individuals around the world to stake a claim for conservation. If it is pursued, oil exploration is expected to create several social and environmental concerns, including the contamination of land, destruction of forests and extinction of local cultures, or at the very least, the social fabric of the area. By keeping the oil in the ground, Ecuador stands to protect its indigenous peoples, conserve its valuable biodiversity and limit its future contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the world benefits from the preservation of biodiversity and the substantial amount of carbon that will not be released into the atmosphere.
In 2007, Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, agreed with a civil society proposal that the oil of Yasuni should remain underground. Since then, efforts have been underway to find a way to fund the initiative. However, time is running out. Despite some major donations, Ecuador needs to raise $100 million dollars by December 31, 2011. Approximately $60 million dollars is still outstanding. Working with the United Nation Development Program’s Multi Partner Trust Fund Office, the Equadorian government hopes to raise millions to protect Yasuni with the help of other governments, NGOs, and the global community.
While the debate rages over the development of newly discovered oil reserves in the Arctic, large companies like Shell are dealing with oil spills in the North Sea and lawsuits in Nigeria. The economic costs associated with the Deepwater Horizon spill are estimated well into the billions. The compensation fund BP had to establish has swelled to $20 billion dollars.
Admittedly, a lot of money may lie underneath the Yasuni reserve. However, an equally significant amount stands to be saved by keeping it there. It’s a carbon piggybank with an incredible value – keeping all that CO2 underground seems like a steal for $3.2 billion over 13 years. With the direct and indirect costs of climate change impacting nations and peoples around the world, protecting Yasuni seems like a sound economic investment if you value the atmosphere.