Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Phil P Harris
Ecuador in South America holds what many would see as a gold mine: one billion barrels in untapped oil reserves. But the reserves have remained unmined for years now in an attempt to preserve the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on earth, under which the oil is located.This move to protect the park, built where the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Basin, and the equator meet, is not altruistic or without caveats. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has vowed not to drill there if the international community chip in for his country’s lost revenue: $3.6 billion, which is about half the estimated value of the reserves, Climatewire reports.
While the scheme has been agreed to in theory, the money is not coming in as expected. Ecuador has managed to raise only $116.9 million though a U.N. fund.
Ecuador “still needs oil,” former Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States Ivonne A-Baki told Climatewire. “We are a developing country… But we still believe this is a place that needs to be preserved.” But with the government recently granting licenses to drill for oil in other regions of the Amazon close to Yasuní, time may be running out.
While some countries in Europe and South America, as well as individuals, banks and companies have contributed to the fund, the U.S. hasn’t. “They don’t see it [climate change] as a priority,” A-Baki said.
Which is not hard to imagine. Oil has always been a major policy point in the U.S., and maintaining friendly sources of the resource, especially given the situation in Iran and the volatility of the Middle East has always been important to Washington.
The only other option to preserve the national park is the international Green Climate Fund, which could be operational by next year. It was born out of a pledge made at the 2010 Cancun climate change summit to collect $100 billion annually to help developing nations deal with reduced industrialisation and emission. But no one knows how much money it will generate in practice.
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