Keeping Ecuador’s oil buried

by Milan on September 27, 2010

in Climate change, Ethics, International relations

In 2007, the government of Ecuador proposed to leave the 900 million barrels of oil under the Yasuní rainforest park buried, in exchange for $3.6 billion in payments from countries concerned about climate change. Now, the plan seems to be falling apart.

That seems a shame. The world needs to develop political and economic structures through which fossil fuels can go unburned. Otherwise, we will be committing ourselves to a potentially catastrophic amount of climate change. Whereas states that have already grown rich – largely as a result of fossil fuel usage – have few excuses for not cutting emissions, those where much of the population remains in extreme poverty have a strong claim to the right to development. Achieving development at the same time as global emissions are being cut will require novel mechanisms to drive that growth along a low-carbon path. Almost certainly, it will also require the substantial transfer of wealth from rich to poor states.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan September 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

“Achieving development at the same time as global emissions are being cut will require novel mechanisms to drive that growth along a low-carbon path.”

Milan, it’s really not possible to have an analysis of development and structurally enforced 3rd world poverty without talking about imperialism. There is no “novelty” to the mechanisms by which the 3rd world is kept poor. The particulars might change, but the refrain stays the same.

Milan September 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

The parts of the 3rd world that are staying poor aren’t terribly important to climate change mitigation policy. It is places like India, China, South Korea, and Brazil that need to continue their economic development along low carbon trajectories, while places like Canada with horribly bloated per-capita emissions start cutting back aggressively.

. September 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Canada urged to contribute to Ecuador fund to prevent Amazon oil drilling

UNITED NATIONS — Ecuador won strong new United Nations backing Monday as the South American country pushed for rich countries to give it as much as $3.6 billion in exchange for not drilling for oil in the Amazon.

Canada is among countries the UN and Ecuador are targeting to contribute to a fund that the Ecuadorean government says it will spend on alleviating poverty and development of “renewable” energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

The UN says the cash would enable the preservation of the Yasuni National Park — a million-hectare tropical rainforest at the intersection of the Andes, the Amazon and the equator.

The region is home to various indigenous tribes who live in isolation and hundreds, if not thousands, of different species of trees and plants.

UNESCO, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency, declared the park a world biosphere reserve in 1989.

Milan October 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

The recent police mutiny in Ecuador highlights one of the risks in paying to keep oil buried. The successors of the people who you pay may not honour the deal.

. December 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Indonesia’s Billion-Dollar Climate Experiment
Can rich nations pay a corruption-riddled government to protect its rainforests?
By Robert Eshelman

Last year, however, Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry told PT LUM—a supplier for the Singapore-based pulp-and-paper giant APRIL—that it could cut down nearly 26,000 acres of lush rainforest surrounding Sungai Tohor and replace it with acacia trees, used to make paper products. The proposed plantation overlaps with the sago groves and other areas that the villagers use to grow rubber and coconuts.

Among the town-hall speakers is Kaka, a slender, ponytailed man who works as an organizer for the Indonesian environmental group WAHLI. As he explains it, Indonesia is accepting cash from Western governments to protect its rainforests even as it enables outside corporations to destroy them. Back in May, in exchange for $1 billion from Norway, Indonesia’s president agreed to place a two-year moratorium on new logging permits. In theory, his administration is also supposed to work closely with locals to develop sustainable forestry practices—such as Sungai Tohor’s sago trade. But government officials have yet to address the villagers’ formal complaints.

The Norway deal is part of a broader United Nations program with an insufferably wonky title—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation—that aims to tackle climate change by paying developing countries to preserve their forests. Because the destruction of rainforests and their carbon-rich peat soils releases vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, and because the payoffs seem like a relatively cheap and straightforward fix, REDD is likely to be one of the hottest negotiation items at the current round of climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. Among the major sticking points: What, exactly, constitutes a forest? (Logging interests argue that their plantations should qualify.) And how much say will forest communities like Sungai Tohor have in the process?

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