While many countries throughout the world are seeking to boost their economies by pumping the oil within their borders, Ecuador is now set to receive $3.6 billion for leaving it in the ground. In a UN agreement that's the first of its kind, the country has committed to not drill in its Yasuni National Park -- one of the most biologically-diverse corners of the Amazon rainforest -- in exchange for a payment from wealthier nations. "The trust fund that we have just established is historic, not only for Ecuador but for the entire world," says one UN official.It is estimated that 846 million barrels of oil lie beneath Yasuni National Park, a wildlife preserve home to pristine Amazon rainforest and a number of species found nowhere else on the planet. But by signing on to the agreement, the Ecuadorian government has promised not to explore the oil-rich region for at least a decade, thus preserving the region's rich biodiversity, for a while at least.
We are witnessing the inauguration of new instruments of cooperation, which will act as a basis for supporting other national and international efforts directed toward the search for economies that are in harmony with society, nature and the planet.
This is the first time such an arrangement has been made to incentivize a nation to not drill for oil.
While receiving a payment of $3.6 billion not to drill in Yasuni may go a long way for a country whose GDP is just around $62 billion, had Ecuador opted to exploit their oil fields they'd likely make twice as much -- but at an untold cost to the environment. Under the no-drilling agreement, the UNDP estimates that the planet will be spared more than 400 million tons of greenhouse gases.
The UNDP is currently studying the viability of similar arrangement with other biodiversity-rich nations. In an era of bailouts for industries deemed 'too big to fail', it's reassuring that the global community has shown a commitment to endow the world's largest rainforests with the support it's due.