Ecuador will go ahead with drilling in Amazon rainforest after abandoning 'pay or we drill' scheme

 

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa is abandoning his ambitious ambitious plan to persuade rich nations to pay his country not to drill for oil in an unspoiled Amazon rainforest preserve.

Mr Correa blames richer nations for refusing to financially back the initiative and for leaving the country with no other option but to pursue the drilling.  

Environmentalists had initially hailed the initiative first proposed by Mr Correa in 2007, saying he was setting a precedent in the fight against global warming by lowering the high cost to poor countries of preserving the environment.

Oil is Ecuador’s is understood to be their chief source of foreign earnings. The country produces 538,000 barrels of crude a day, delivering nearly half its production to the United States.

In a nationally televised speech, he told the audience “the world has failed us,” adding that the global recession was in part responsible. However, he chiefly blamed “the great hypocrisy” of nations who emit most of the world's greenhouse gases.

“It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change,” he said.

Demonstrators held banners in the streets with slogans such as "Ecuador doesn't love life" during a protest outside the government palace in Quito as he announced his decision.

 His no-drilling plan had envisioned generating donations from wealthier countries paying Ecuador half the 7.2 billion dollars (£4.6 billion) in revenues expected to be generated over 10 years from the 846 million barrels of heavy crude estimated to be in Yasuni.

Not drilling in the reserve would keep 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, officials had estimated during their global lobbying campaign that included organising tours of the reserve for journalists.

Demonstrators protest against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in front of the Presidential Palace in Quito, Ecuador, on 15 August 2013  

The Amazon rainforest is also home to many indigenous tribes, including the Kichwa, the Shuar and the Huarani, with each having their own characteristic features, languages and customs.

But while Mr Correa's proposal generated interest, there were few takers, in part because he insisted that Ecuador alone would decide how the donations would be spent. European countries expressed the most interest but still baulked.

Correa announced the end of a plan proposed in 2007 to get foreign investors to pay Ecuador to not drill for oil in the Amazon. Not enough funds were raised in order to sustain the plan

Mr Correa had sought 3.6 billion US dollars (£2.3 billion) in contributions to maintain a moratorium on drilling in the remote Yasuni National Park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to two Indian tribes living in voluntary isolation.

But he said Ecuador had raised just 13 million dollars (£8.3 million) in pledges and that he had an obligation to his people, particularly the poor, to move ahead with drilling. The UN and private donors had put up the cash.

Mr Correa said he was proposing to the National Assembly, which his supporters control, oil exploration in Yasuni amounting to less than 1 per cent of its 3,800 square miles

Ecuador is an Opec member that depends on oil for a third of its national budget. The three oil fields in Yasuni represent 20 per cent of its oil reserves.

Political analyst Jose Fuentes of the Flacso university in Quito said Mr Correa had opted “for economic pragmatism” in abandoning the environmentalist image he had wished to project internationally.

Matt Finer, a scientist at the US-based Centre for International Environmental Law, said the decision to abandon this alternative model as extremely disappointing.

“The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon. Now there is really no viable alternative to stop the wave of drilling slated for the most biodiverse region of the world,” he said.

Patricio Chavez, director of the environmental group Amazonia por la Vida, criticised Mr Correa for leaving potential donors a single option of “pay or we drill.”

Additional reporting by agencies

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests