Little countries can find the strength to do big things that big countries fear to do.
For the good of itself, for the good of the planet, the South American country of Ecuador has proposed to keep the lid on nearly one billion barrels of oil under its Yasuni National Park.
Despite the fact that Ecuador depends on one-third of its budget from oil exports, there will be no oil extraction, no oil exploration from the ITT oil field under Yasuni. Under the YasunÌ-ITT Initiative the country will forgo the stream of revenues the oil would provide. Ecuador will be the first country in the world to deliberately leave significant oil reserves underground - and those revenues - for the betterment of the planet while seeking to build a sustainable green economy.
There is of course mention of compensation by other nations for its efforts to keep potential greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. By leaving the oil underground Ecuador would, in effect, be sequestering the equivalent of 436 million tons of carbon dioxide.
To date global carbon dioxide emissions from Ecuador amount to less than a half-percent of the existing rise in emissions from pre-industrial levels. Highly industrialized countries have contributed over fifty percent of the atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.
Ecuador thinks those industrialized countries should step forward, show some strength, and assume stronger targets for greenhouse gas reductions and greater commitments of support to initiatives that combat additional increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
Yasuni National Park is home to at least two indigenous tribes that live in voluntary isolation in one of the most biodiverse places on earth. It is a unique and treasured place that Ecuador wants to leave just as it is.
Compare Yasuni with another treasured place, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), while comparing the attitudes of the Ecuadorian government and the US toward oil.
A few votes in Washington could lead to drilling in ANWR even though the eventual greenhouse gas emissions will contribute to the flooding of some of the nation’s own cities. Leadership in Quito would rather leave Yasuni’s oil in the ground, continue to build its nation with less dependence on oil and do its part to keep other nations’ cities from being inundated by rising oceans.
Ecuador’s long term vision is that the YasunÌ-ITT Initiative, which could include Ecuador accepting fair compensation for its efforts, will underwrite the implementation of its National Development Plan.
Under that Plan the nation will prioritize the use of renewable energy, build efficient transportation systems, attempt to eradicate poverty and provide universal access to quality healthcare and education. The Plan also includes promotion of ecotourism and sustainable development for Ecuador’s Amazonian region. Ecuador is also the home of the Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa presented the Yasuni-ITT Initiative at a United Nations meeting of world leaders on global climate change.
National Government of Ecuador (Spanish)
Yasuni National Park