The world has failed us: Ecuador ditches plan to save Amazon from oil drilling

Blow to climate change battle as President Correa tears up $3.6bn UN agreement

A ground-breaking scheme that would have preserved swathes of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest has been abandoned after raising just $13m (£8.3m) of the $3.6bn it needed to operate.

In a development that human rights and environmental campaigners described as a “huge missed opportunity”, President Rafael Correa has lifted a moratorium on drilling for oil in the remote Yasuni national park, which he had imposed in return for $3.6bn of compensation payments from wealthy governments.

However, three years after finalising the deal through the UN, Mr Correa is calling time on the trust fund  set up after receiving pledges for just $116m – and only $13m of actual cash.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito today to vent their frustration at the failure of the scheme, which campaigners said represented a blow in the global battle to combat climate change as well as for the 10,000 square mile National Park itself.

“The world has failed us,” said President Correa in a nationally televised speech. He 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 for climate change,” he added.

Yasuni is home to two indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation and has been categorised by the UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve and one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. A single hector of Yasuni contains 644 species of tree, more than in the whole of North America.

SOS Yasuni, a campaign group for the national park, criticised President Correa’s decision, saying the speed at which he has dismantled the agreement and awarded a drilling concession without public consultation “seems designed to ensure as quick a start to the oil exploration as possible”.

Mr Correa had failed to appreciate the scope of the initiative, which was “not an isolated, one-off technical proposal, but rather a pathway, a transition. It embodied a proposal for genuine civilisational change,” the group said in an open letter to the president. “This is fundamentally an ethical proposal that calls into question a model of extraction that destroys ecosystems, cultures and other models of production and consumption,” a group spokesman said.

The $3.6bn the president sought represents half of the $7.2bn expected to be generated over the next decade from the 846 million barrels of heavy crude estimated to lie in the Yasuni area, representing 410 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Although he sought to position himself as a global environmental champion by agreeing to effectively write off half the profits he could have made from Yasuni oil production, President Correa is not viewed as being particularly green in his home country. Oil production and mining are common elsewhere in Ecuador, including the Amazon.

“It’s clear that oil exploration will be negative for the area,” said Nick Molho, head of energy and climate policy at WWF UK, adding: “The lack of funding raised by the Ecuadorian Government is a stark reminder of the inadequacy of current political action to tackle climate change. The world’s most developed economies must go beyond positive rhetoric and show substantial financial commitment to support the transition towards a low-carbon world economy.”

Preserving the trees now under threat from oil production would have helped to curb climate change, since forests are a major carbon sink, absorbing the carbon dioxide that most scientists agree is a key contributor to global warming. Furthermore, chopping down those trees is doubly damaging to the environment because deforestation releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as well as removing its capacity to absorb fresh emissions.

But while this deforestation would play a small role in exacerbating climate change, the much bigger loss is that the scheme’s failure means it is far less likely to become a major weapon against global warming by being repeated elsewhere.

“People have really missed a trick here,” said Patrick Alley, founding director of Global Witness, the human rights and environmental group.

“It could have signalled a new way of thinking and it failed because global leadership isn’t putting nearly enough thinking into this issue.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn