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Why Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT Programme Failed, Despite Global Admiration

In 2007 Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, proposed an ambitious and thoroughly respectable plan to the world. Offer Ecuador €2.7 billion by 2020 as a form of compensation, and Ecuador will prevent the development of oil fields in the Yasuni National Park, in the Amazon jungle.

Had it been successful, the Yasuni-ITT programme would have prevented the destruction of one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet, and avoided the release of an estimated 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, having secured just €13 million so far, on the 15th August Correa announced the abandonment of the programme, and the subsequent approval for oil companies to begin drilling in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil fields.

Related article: Ecuador Opens Oil Blocks in Amazon Rainforest

Despite austerity programmes, due to struggling economies, 10 European countries pledged €115,000 – 190,000 each to Ecuador, however, the European Union, the world’s largest overseas donor, made no contribution. Whilst claiming to admire Correa’s ambition, they disagreed with his method and refused to cooperate.

A spokesperson from the EU executive’s development directorate said that “the EEAS (European External Action Service) ] and the European Commission services have always conveyed our sympathy to the efforts made by the Government of Ecuador to address the challenge of climate change and biodiversity conservation.

At the same time, we have also underlined that we cannot provide finance for avoided oil extraction.”

Germany, initially a major supporter of the Yasuni-ITT programme, switched roles with the appointment of a new development minister. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul promised €38 million to Ecuador, however his successor, Dirk Niebel, ended the payments when he took position.

Related article: Chevron Sues Lawyer in Charge of $18 Billion Ecuadorian Case

Niebel explained in 2011 that “refraining from oil drilling alone is not going to help in forest preservation, and compensation payments have little prospect of success in climate protection measures.”

In petulant retaliation Correa then cancelled a €34.5 million German aide programme intended to protect Ecuador’s rainforest and indigenous people.

The EU also said that they preferred to continue donating to the UN’s REDD+ initiative, claiming that “the EU will do our utmost to fund, within the current (or future) EU programs, actions that will contribute to the conservation of the Yasuní rainforest as well as those related to the REDD+ initiative.”

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com



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