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Action Alert: Fund Ecuador to Keep Oil Underground and Rainforests Standing for Our Shared Climate

It is time for the international community led by Europe to step up and finance large-scale Amazon rainforest preservation to protect the Earth's atmosphere, biodiversity, and life-giving ecosystems; while helping meet needs for national advancement

By, a project of EcoInternet - August 20, 2008

In partnership with Save America's Forests

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Additional Background

The Western Amazon -- home to some of the most biodiverse and intact rainforest left on Earth, which are critical for driving regional and global ecosystems and climatic patterns necessary for life -- may soon be decimated by oil rigs and pipelines. Record oil prices and growing global demand are now stimulating unprecedented levels of new oil and gas exploration and extraction in the Western Amazon. Regional governments, international donors and global citizens must decide whether every last bit of the Earth's wilderness; and intact, large ecosystems, will be sacrificed to delay having to transition now to renewable energy sources, ensuring abrupt run-away climate change in the process.

According to a new study in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, over 180 oil and gas "blocks" – areas zoned for exploration and development – now cover the Western Amazon, which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil. These oil and gas blocks stretch over 688,000 km2 (170 million acres), a vast area nearly the size of Texas. This energy production is to be concentrated in the Amazon's largest un-fragmented wildernesses containing the most biodiverse areas for birds, mammals, and amphibians. It will encroach upon titled lands of indigenous peoples as well as other tribes living in voluntary isolation. Loss of the Amazon's rainforests and burning of this oil may well push the Earth past the climate change tipping point.

Yet there is hope, as Ecuador's new forward-thinking government led by President Rafael Correa announced in June 2007 the innovative Yasuní-ITT Initiative which offers to keep Ecuador's largest untapped oilfields unexploited in exchange for financial compensation from the international community. The ITT oil fields are located in the core of the renowned Yasuni National Park, widely recognized as one of the most biodiverse spots on Earth. Plans to build oil roads into this protected area were earlier suspended after many local and global scientists and activists mobilized to achieve temporary victory. Ecological Internet Earth Action Network was the first to campaign internationally on the matter, successfully internationalizing the issue.

The ITT-Yasuni Initiative is widely viewed as not only an innovative proposal to combat climate change by keeping fossil fuels underground, but it also protects biodiversity and uncontacted indigenous peoples. In exchange for leaving the oil in the ground and rainforests intact, Ecuador fairly seeks half of oil's projected revenues, roughly $350 million per year for 10 years. This initiative is a potentially precedent-setting example of how the global north and south can collaborate on protecting the Amazon, combating climate change and meeting needs for national advancement. Yet given international rhetoric regarding the need for climate and rainforest protection, international donors have been slow to respond and this critical initiative appears dangerously close to failure.

As the Yasuni-ITT proposal enters its potentially final stage, the deadline has recently been pushed back to the end of December 2008, we urge careful consideration by potential donors, including philanthropists, multilateral banks and governments. The German Parliament recently gave the initiative new life by passing a measure formally supporting the initiative. But more parties must follow their lead -- particularly in Europe given their historical strong rhetoric on the need to protect global climate and biodiversity. If successful, this type of initiative could be replicated in other parts of the Amazon and around the world. Global ecological sustainability including solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises depends up the rich nations anteing up. Please ask European aid agencies to lead the effort below.

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Oil Production and Protected Areas Do Not Mix
Europe talks alot about protecting climate, rainforest and biodiversity -- now it is time for them to ante up and pay Ecuador to keep their oil in the ground  (link)

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