Germany backs out of Yasuni deal

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
June 13, 2011



Germany has backed out of a pledge to commit $50 million a year to Ecuador's Yasuni ITT Initiative, reports Science Insider. The move by Germany potentially upsets an innovative program hailed by environmentalists and scientists alike. This one-of-a-kind initiative would protect a 200,000 hectare bloc in Yasuni National Park from oil drilling in return for a trust fund of $3.6 billion, or about half the market value of the nearly billion barrels of oil lying underneath the area. The plan is meant to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and safeguard the rights of indigenous people.

Yasuni National Park, of which the ITT block makes up over a fifth, is considered a top contender for the most biodiverse place on Earth. For example, researchers have found more tree species (655 to be exact) in a single hectare in Yasuni than in all of the US and Canada combined. Yasuni also contains the highest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world with 271 species. But bugs may win the day yet: according to entomologist, Dr. Terry Erwin, a single hectare of rainforest in Yasuni may contain as many as 100,000 unique insect species. This estimate, if proven true, is the highest per unit area in the world for any taxa, plant or animal.


An oxbow lake in Yasuni National Park, home to anacondas, piranhas, electric eels, and freshwater stingrays. Photo by Jeremy Hance.
Toward the goal of climate change mitigation, the Yasuni ITT Initiative would prevent around 407 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere, simply by keeping the estimated 846 million barrels of petroleum from being extracted. The ITT bloc is also home to several indigenous communities, many of whom have chosen voluntary isolation.

Funds donated to the program would be held in a trust fund by the UN Development Program to be used strictly for environmental and poverty reduction programs in Ecuador.

No reason has been given for Germany's withdrawal from the fund, however in the past the country was seen as one of the most promising donors. Despite its perceived merits, the initiative has not had much success in raising funds. The Ecuadorian government has insisted it must secure $100 million for Yasuni by the end of the year or it will open up the door to oil companies.


Poison dart frog (Ameerega bilinguis) in Yasuni National Park. Photo by Jeremy Hance.
“Unfortunately we are not getting the response we expected,” Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said recently in a radio program. So far around $40 million has been pledged.

Researchers in the region say that if the initiative fails and the ITT-bloc is exploited, the Ecuadorian government must at least commit to banning roads in the region. Road construction brings with it a host of environmental issues, including deforestation, fragmentation, illegal logging and mining, poaching, and fires.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (June 13, 2011).

Germany backs out of Yasuni deal.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0613-hance_yasuni_germany.html