QUITO – The Ecuadorian government and the United Nations Development Program signed an agreement on Tuesday to move forward with a proposal that the international community pay Quito to forgo oil drilling in a sensitive area of the Amazon.
The signing of the trust accord took place at the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry in the presence of Vice President Lenin Moreno and UNDP associate administrator Rebeca Grynspan as well as ambassadors and representatives of indigenous communities located in and around Yasuni National Park.
In a press briefing prior to the ceremony, Ecuador’s minister for national patrimony, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said countries that contribute to the trust will receive Yasuni Guarantee Certificates, or CGYs, bearing Quito’s pledge the crude will remain underground for the indefinite future.
The CGYs, paying no interest and with no expiration date, are to reflect the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions that will be averted as a result of the respective contributions to what is known as the Yasuni-ITT initiative.
“We are talking about those 407 million metric tons (of CO2) that will not be emitted due to not extracting the more than 800 million barrels of petroleum under the earth,” Espinosa said.
Should Ecuador eventually tap the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha, or ITT, oil reserve, CGY holders would be entitled to full refunds of their contributions to the trust, she said.
With the formal creation of the Yasuni-ITT trust, Ecuadorian officials will visit foreign capitals to solicit contributions, Espinosa told Efe. She said the trust will need to amass a minimum of $100 million in the next 18 months to begin operating.
Espinosa is set to leave here Saturday for China to explain the initiative to officials in Beijing, while another member of Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT negotiating committee, Ivonne Baki, told Efe that visits to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Norway, Spain, Italy and the United States are planned for next month.
President Rafael Correa may travel to the Middle East in November to pitch the idea to leaders of oil-rich Arab nations, officials here said.
The board of the Yasuni-ITT trust will comprise three representatives of the Quito government, two from contributing nations and one from Ecuadorian civil society, Espinosa said.
The UNDP’s Grynspan called the Yasuni initiative “innovative, bold” and important for “the entire planet.”
“The contribution Ecuador is making to the world is invaluable,” she said, while Moreno pointed out that Quito is asking the international community for only half of the estimated $7 billion the Andean nation could earn by exploiting the ITT reserves.
Ecuador depends on oil exports to fund about a third of annual government expenditures. EFE