El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

World pays Ecuador to save forest

John Vidal
January 2, 2012

AN ALLIANCE of European local authorities, governments, US film stars, Japanese shops, soft drink companies and Russian foundations have stepped in to prevent oil companies from extracting 900 million barrels of crude oil from one of the world's most biologically rich tracts of land.
The ''crowdfunding'' initiative had raised $US116 million, said the United Nations, enough to temporarily halt the exploitation of the 1870 square kilometres of ''core'' Amazonian rainforest known as Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on Earth.
Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of more than 400 million tonnes of CO2.

Ecuador agreed to halt plans to drill the oilfield if, over a 13-year period, it could raise 50 per cent of the $US7.6 billion revenue being lost by not mining the oil.

While the world's leading conservation groups pledged nothing, regional governments in France and Belgium offered millions of dollars - with $US2 million alone from the Belgian region of Wallonia. A New York banker donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore all contributed.

The idea of asking people to pay for something not to take place was widely dismissed by national treasuries as holding the world to ransom.

The German Development Minister, Dirk Niebel, said the principle of paying for the oil not to be exploited ''would be setting a precedent with unforeseeable referrals''. However, Germany has now contributed $US48 million in ''technical assistance''.

The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was widely criticised after he wrote off $US51 million of Ecuador's $US10 billion external debt as Italy's contribution. Other pledges include Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey ($US100,000 each), Peru ($US300,000), Australia ($US500,000) and Spain ($US1.4 million).

Supporters argued the scheme could be a model for change in the way the world pays to protect important places. The money raised is guaranteed to be used only for nature protection and renewable energy projects. Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and other states with oil reserves have investigated setting up such schemes as an alternative to traditional aid.

The biological richness of Yasuni has astonished scientists. One 600-hectare sector was found to have 47 species of amphibians and reptiles, 550 of birds, 200 of mammals and more species of bats and insects than anywhere in the Western hemisphere. Scientists said it would take 400 years to record the 100,000 or more insect and 2000 fish species.

Guardian News & Media

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