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Brittany: Why MSID Ecuador?

August 20, 2010

One reason I chose Ecuador and the MSID program was to write my summa cum laude undergrad thesis.  Here is one topic I’m considering:

Blackmail or Innovation? Ecuador Says No Drilling in Amazon Reserve for $3.6 Billion

Early in August the United Nations Development Program and Ecuador signed a pioneering accord that will protect a part of the Amazon from oil drilling for ten years, leaving an estimated 20% of Ecuador’s crude oil reserves untapped.

The specific location, the Yasuni National Park, was named a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989.  In addition to the diversity of plant and animal (and human) life, it is estimated to hold 846 million barrels of crude—Ecuador’s biggest export.

As part of the agreement, Ecuador wants $3.6 billion from other nations to go into an UN-administered trust fund for it to refrain from drilling in the Yasuni reserve.  That might sound a bit like blackmail, but the amount covers only half of what Ecuador would have likely made from selling the oil found there.

In addition, officials say avoiding drilling in Yasuni will prevent more than 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a factor in climate change.

So far Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and the United States have expressed interest in giving to the trust fund.

The UNDP’s Rebeca Grynspan said the accord is “innovative, audacious and important for the whole planet,” and that the UNDP is interested in duplicating it in other places such as Nigeria, Guatemala and Vietnam.

The agreement would only protect one part of Ecuador’s Amazon for a limited time, a region that has already experienced significant destruction from the oil industry…but could this be an emerging model for protecting natural resources and the environment?

[Reported by the BBC and LA Times.]

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