Friday, November 23, 2012

Project to leave oil in ground under Yasuní park reaches $300 million

John Vidal in the Guardian (UK): More than $300m (£188m) has been promised to stop the exploitation of 846m barrels of oil below the Yasuní national park in Ecuador, one of the world's most biologically rich areas of rainforest, new figures show. Ecuador's idea to leave the oil in the soil under the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) area of the park and ask the world to compensate it with half its monetary value was hailed as a revolutionary, if idealistic, new conservation idea when it was first proposed in 2007.

But critics doubted whether raising the $3.6bn needed in 13 years would be possible, and accused Ecuador of holding the world, literally, over a barrel.

However, figures released by the UN Development Programme-run Yasuní-ITT initiative shows that while most wealthy governments have declined to contribute, foundations, individuals and cash-strapped regional authorities in austerity-hit Europe have pledged or given over $300m since 2011, when the fundraising drive began in earnest.

Germany has offered $50m over three years, and Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey have given token amounts. In addition, 10 regions of Europe have contributed $150-250,000 each, along with corporations including Coca Cola, airlines, banks and Brazilian, US and Russian foundations. A Puerto Rican musician gave $50,000.

But while only $64m has been formally deposited, the papers show $187m has been promised by countries including Belgium, Brazil, France, Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Spain and Qatar. Some is likely to come via debt swaps and "technical agreements" as well as contracts and agreements with companies....

A view in the Yasuni natinonal park, shot by Geoff Gallice, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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