|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Yasuní-Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini Initiative in Ecuador —
‘Innovation in Climate Economics: Keeping the Oil in the Soil’
In a bid to avoid the extraction of oil from one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet — Yasuní National Park in Ecuador — and preserve the area’s unique ecology for all humanity, the Ecuadorean Government wanted to raise at least $100 million of a proposed multi-billion dollar trust fund by the end of 2011, Ecuador’s Vice-President, Lenín Moreno Garcés, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today.
“Plan B would be to extract the oil if the money does not arrive […] if the plan does not work out,” Mr. Garcés said. “But we have confidence that it will work”. Mr. Garcés and Rebeca Grynspan, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), were referring to a unique deal to raise $3.6 billion over a 13-year period from the international community and preserve the area, which is also home to indigenous people with scant contact with the outside world.
The $3.6 billion represents half of the estimated $7.2 billion value of nearly 1 billion barrels of crude oil lying beneath the park land, Mr. Garcés explained. By not developing the site and leaving the oil in the ground, the Ecuadorean Government was, in effect, contributing the remaining $3.6 billion of the $7.2 billion.
Located at the intersection of the Amazon, the Andes Mountains and the Equator in north-eastern Ecuador, the Park was created in 1970 and designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The Park harbours a primeval forest and an area in which one single hectare contains more tree species than those native to all of North America.
Mr. Garcés said the Ecuadorean people have agreed to forgo revenue from its oil resources and that the international community had a responsibility to provide the other 50 per cent of the remaining resources. “That’s not a difficult proposal for a world interested increasingly in conservation,” he said, adding that the international community should create tools to protect the environment for the future. “This is a proposal for all of humanity. Let’s leave the oil in the ground.”
The historic deal, signed in August 2010 by Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño Aroca and Ms. Grynspan, sets up the trust fund to keep the Yasuní’s Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil fields from being drilled. Earlier this month, the Chilean Government had made the first contribution with a $100,000 donation. Belgium, Spain, Turkey and China were among other countries that had offered contributions so far, Mr. Garcés said.
Ms. Grynspan said the deal was an example of an innovative way in which a country could partner with the rest of the international community to protect the global public good. The fund had been carefully crafted to protect the interests of donors if a succeeding Ecuadorean Government decided to exploit the oil. Additionally, the Government would issue US-dollar-denominated Yasuni Guarantee Certificates equivalent to the face value of each contribution.
Another wonderful aspect of the fund was that it would change an energy matrix now based on oil, Ms. Grynspan explained further. Money from the fund would be invested in renewable energy projects and the money gained from those projects would, in turn, be invested in social projects meant to curb poverty, promote technology and generally help indigenous people. “We can keep the oil in the ground, take the money to change the energy matrix and then invest in social development and indigenous people and the citizens,” she added. “The only thing the world can do is respond.”
Responding to a reporter’s query about questions that the German Government had about the fund, Mr. Garcés said he did not yet know the German Government’s specific questions, but he believed the questions centred on the guarantees to leave the oil in the ground.
Referring to a recent poll, mentioned by Mr. Garcés, which indicated that 75 per cent of the Ecuadorean people did not want oil extracted from the oil fields, a reporter asked what the Government would do if the fund did not become viable. Mr. Garcés said that if the Government had to move ahead with the extraction, no one could be certain that any extraction would not produce an environmental disaster, as evident in the oil spill that had occurred recently in the Gulf of Mexico. But any oil extraction would happen only in a part of the park and the latest technology would be used to ensure that any possible ecological disaster was kept to a minimum.
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