Ecuador has pledged not drill in a reserve in the Amazon in exchange for payments from rich countries. Under the agreement, which will be administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ecuador will receive up to US$ 3.6 billion in payments. In exchange for these payments, they will undertake to grant the Yasuni reserve a stay of execution of ten years.
The money they will receive amounts to roughly half of what they might have received, had they tapped the oil in the reserve area. Rebecca Grynspan of the UNDP said that the organisation would be interested in replicating the initiative in other countries such as Vietnam, Guatemala and Nigeria.
It is thought that the reserve could hold up to 846 billion barrels of oil, equivalent to 20% of Ecuador’s reserves. The reason this area is considered so important is that it was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1989, and is host to one of the most diverse arrays of species on the planet, as well as the Huarani tribe, a hunter-gatherer indigenous group who live in the area. The tribe have welcomed the decision to protect their territory from oil development.
Keeping the oil in the ground will keep 410 million t of CO2 out of the atmosphere as well. “This is Ecuador’s contribution towards combating climate change,” said Maria Espinoza, Ecuador’s Heritage Minister. Ecuador will soon be sending delegations to potential donor nations to secure funding commitments for the agreement.