Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT Initiative: A Critical Assessment3
Abstract The Yasuni-ITT Initiative is an innovative proposal presented by Ecuador with UNDP participation. It offers new ways of promoting climate change mitigation by not exploiting certain fossil fuel reserves in biologically sensitive areas in developing countries, while simultaneously promoting biodiversity conservation and equitable human development. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative forms part of a policy aimed to promote sustainable and equitable development in Ecuador, although the country still lacks a coherent environmental strategy. This article summarizes the contributions of the Initiative, not only towards global mitigation and biodiversity conservation but also to sustainable economic development in Ecuador. It also discusses its economic feasibility and possibilities of international replication.
Introduction As Jeffrey Sachs points out, the global economy is not only following an unsustainable path, but it is also affected by interrelated social, environmental and financial crises (Sachs, 2011). New ideas are required for a shift towards an equitable and sustainable global economy. Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT Initiative is an innovative and feasible proposal that aims to do this by simultaneously addressing global climate change mitigation, biodiversity preservation, and equitable social development for Ecuador.
As a large heavy oil reserve was confirmed in the Yasuni National Park, considered the most biodiverse hotspot in the Western Hemisphere (Bass, Finer, Jenkins, et al. 2010), in 2007 president Rafael Correa announced Ecuador’s decision to keep the crude oil indefinitely underground to the United Nations, provided that the international community cooperates with Ecuador by contributing at least half of the revenue that the State would earn by extracting the oil (Correa, 2007). The UNDP now administers the Yasuni Fund, guaranteeing its efficiency and transparency. The Fund’s capital will be invested exclusively on renewable energy in Ecuador, and the interest earned will be devoted to effectively preserving the Yasuni Park and the 35% of Ecuador’s land area that is still covered by undisturbed rainforests and original ecosystems, thereby promoting sustainable social development in the Amazon, fostering energy efficiency, and sponsoring scientific research aimed towards ensuring sustainability.