There has been a growing movement amongst communities from the South that are affected by oil exploitation to keep the “oil in the soil.”
Campaigners from both Nigeria and Ecuador have long mooted the idea, and so have some governments.
For the last two years Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has proposed that his government should be paid $3 billion not to drill in a pristine Amazon reserve.
Correa is in London this week to try to garner international action for the idea. Germany and Spain are said to be interested in Correa’s idea, which could set a massive precedent in the fight against climate change.
“This is the first time the government of a major oil-producing country has voluntarily offered to forego lucrative oil extraction in order to help combat climate change,” said Dr. Matt Finer, staff scientist for Save America’s Forests and author of a study on Correa’s initiative.
Under the plan, rich countries would pay Ecuador at least half the revenues that the 850 million barrels of heavy crude oil estimated to be in Ecuador’s beautiful Yasuni National Park would be expected to generate over the next 10 years — or about $3 billion. This equates to some 20 per cent of Ecuador’s reserves.
Ecuador says not drilling for the oil would keep 410 million metric tons of CO2 in the soil, as it were.
The Diplomatic wheels are slowly beginning to turn. Spain has already donated $200,000 to help Ecuador set up a fund to implement the project, and Germany is said to be negotiating how much to give.
“The amount of a potential donation and the method and period over which it would be paid have yet to be determined,” a German government official told the Associated Press last week in Berlin.
Although Germany supports the idea, its participation is dependent on recruiting other donors and expanding the amount of land protected from development under the initiative. Because although Correa’s proposal would block drilling in three oil fields in Yasuni, it does not explicitly prohibit development in the rest of the park.
Correa is scheduled to meet with the British Parliament tomorrow and then travel to Canada, France, Sweden, Belgium and the United States in November to try to whip up international support.
And, climate change aside, if anyone wants a reason why the oil should stay in the soil, they should watch Joe Berlinger’s movie Crude about the epic legal struggle of the Amazonian Indians against Chevron and Texaco.
And if anyone thinks $3 billion is a lot of money, its small-change compared to what has been spent bailing out the banks over the last couple of years….