Leave the oil on land in the Yasuní. A challenge to coherence

Leave the oil on land in the Yasuní. A challenge to coherence

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By Esperanza Martínez

The ITT reserves are located under one of the areas of greatest biodiversity on the planet, which is home to no less than 165 species of mammals, 110 of amphibians, 72 of reptiles, 630 of birds, 1,130 of trees and 280 of lianas, without counting innumerable species of invertebrates not yet studied. The proposal would avoid the emission of 407 million metric tons of CO2 and the effects of deforestation and pollution caused by oil exploitation.

The Yasuní initiative, presented by Alberto Acosta, Ecuador's Minister of Energy and Mines, collecting the proposals of various people and civil society organizations, was assumed by the President of the Republic, Rafael Correa, in the Petroecuador Board of Directors session, of March 30, 2007. In this way, President Correa froze the claims of the state oil company to immediately start the bidding process for the extraction of crude oil in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini field.

The press release of the Ministry of Energy was very clear:

"The first option was accepted to leave the crude dammed on land, in order not to affect an area of ​​extraordinary biodiversity and not put at risk the existence of several peoples in voluntary isolation or uncontacted peoples. This measure will be considered as long as the international community provides at least half of the resources that would be generated if oil exploitation is chosen; resources that the Ecuadorian economy requires for its development. "

Two things follow from this statement. From the presidential perspective, there was always a second option: extract the oil. The objectives of conserving the biodiversity of Yasuní and respecting the territory of peoples in voluntary isolation should be guaranteed to the extent that an international compensation estimated at that time of 350 million dollars is obtained. Additionally, the first option, that of leaving the oil in the subsoil, meant concentrating priority efforts on it and, above all, being consistent with it.

Keeping oil from the ITT field underground has important ethical implications, impossible to quantify in monetary terms. First, it would prevent the extinction of the Waorani people, whose subsistence has been based on hunting, gathering and itinerant agriculture. However, the exploitation of forests and oil activity have irreversibly affected most of this population. The Tagaeri and the Taromenane, belonging to this culture, have opted for voluntary isolation and survive in the intangible area south of Yasuní Park.

The proposal would prevent the emission of 407 million metric tons of CO2. Furthermore, it would avoid the effects of deforestation and contamination caused by oil exploitation, which would affect an ecosystem established since 1979 as a National Park and declared by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The ITT reserves are located under one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, which is home to no less than 165 species of mammals, 110 of amphibians, 72 of reptiles, 630 of birds, 1,130 of trees and 280 of lianas, without counting countless species of invertebrates not yet studied.

According to the latest estimates, ITT reserves reach 846 million recoverable barrels of heavy crude oil (14.7 ° API) that would be exploited for around 13 years, at a rate of 107,000 barrels per day, starting in the fifth year, unless early recovery is applied, and after a successful oil tender process has been completed.

Two years after the proposal was submitted, it is necessary to evaluate what has happened with this initiative. With Decree 1579, of February 5, 2009, an indefinite period is opened to achieve the compensation demanded and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is charged with the continuity of the actions. At the head of this ministry is Fander Falconí, a person who knows and understands the proposal and who has publicly maintained his commitment to the initiative. This undoubtedly opens an important space for the viability and recovery of the initiative.

However, it is necessary to take a general look and analyze what has been the political support, the clarity of the actions deployed and the same action strategy, in relation to the Yasuní / ITT.

One of lime, another of sand in government action

After the positioning of President Correa in the Petroecuador board, there are two important milestones in favor of the environmental proposal: the presentation by the president of the Policy for the Protection of Peoples in Voluntary Isolation, in April 2007, and the official presentation of the ITT Initiative in the Presidential Palace, by the same president, in June of the same year. The option of not exploiting the crude has also been a prominent part of President Correa's speech abroad, both when UNASUR was formed, as well as at the United Nations, at the Summit of Presidents in Caracas, at OPEC and at the recent Forum World Social. This initiative has brought him multiple awards at the international level, and loud ovations to President Correa.

However, in an exercise that borders on schizophrenia, each of the steps taken in the direction of saving the Yasuní, have been accompanied by other signs of equal strength, in support of the oil option ... Here we can highlight the signing of the memorandum of understanding to exploit the ITT with the state companies Petrobras (Brazil), Sinopec (China) and Enap (Chile), the same month of March 2007, as well as the environmental license delivered to Petrobras to enter block 31 (neighbor of ITT) , the presidential proposals in China and Iran to negotiate the oil fields linked to the ITT, the repeated announcements that exploration activities would begin and, incidentally, the permanent disqualification of the environmental groups that are the most enthusiastic about this proposal.

The option of not exploiting crude, to say the least, has had an erratic wandering. From the Ministry of Energy and Mines, where this initiative was forged, it passed to the Vice Presidency of the Republic. In a short time he migrated to the Chancellery. At times it seemed like a hot potato that nobody wanted to receive. However, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to have acquired a greater institutional framework, from the conceptual perspective the proposal underwent a profound metamorphosis. This increased confusion among those interested in defending life at the ITT.

There this initiative was linked to a debt exchange system that was at the same time indebtedness, then to the issuance of carbon credits and later to the issuance of bonds that should be accepted as carbon credits despite not being so. Its consistency was, to say the least, entangled in the conceptual contradictions of a confusing proposal: on the one hand critical of the Kyoto market mechanisms and on the other framed within them ... This lack of definition has so far not allowed to have a clear mechanism to capture the financial resources offered for a long time. To this is added the ambiguity of the presidential actions.

The viability of the option of not exploiting the crude depends on the guarantees offered to those who want to make donations, on ensuring the efficient and correct use of the money collected, and on guaranteeing the intangibility of the oil reserves once the project is crystallized. . So far there is no certificate supporting donations. Equally weighing on the project is the lack of dialogue with Ecuadorian and international civil society, which should be the most solid pillars of this truly revolutionary initiative.

The option to exploit oil, meanwhile, has advanced. First it was thought to hand over the field to Petrobras, let us remember that block 31 was a key project for ITT, that is why they insisted so much on the environmental license of block 31. (The Brazilians, with their sights on ITT crude, consolidated 117 in Peru [2] and established an agreement for technical evaluation with Pluspetro in 6 blocks along the Marañón river in Peru [3]). Let's even remember the signing of the memorandum of understanding, mentioned above. However, Petrobras changed priorities, both due to the economic crisis and the discovery of the Presalt, an immense deposit in Brazilian deep waters.

In response, Petroecuador focused its efforts on generating the interest of other companies. The possibility of early production was consolidated, preventing ITT from being managed as an isolated block, and seeking "synergies" that take advantage of the existing infrastructure in Block 15 of Petroamazonas. In order to move the heavy crude from the ITT, a source of light crude was found in the Pañacocha field. [4] That would explain the official decision to enter Pañacocha at any cost despite the rejection of the population.

Again in the Petroecuador board of directors, on November 20, 2008, President Correa himself, accepting a technical proposal, pointed out that a T could be removed from the ITT project, to start, at least in a part of the field, with early exploitation . The proposal not to exploit the crude would be reduced to Ishpingo and Tambococha. The conditions were created to start oil exploitation at any time.

But the story continues, the new mining law that enshrines the continuity of the extractivist model corresponded to some strong media, under the logic of one lime and another of sand, and this came with the extension for an indefinite period of the ITT initiative.

A current proposal

Despite the contradictory official signals, surprises and disappointments, the proposal to keep the oil underground has a gigantic force. The what, who, and why the option of not removing the oil from the Yasuní has ​​been kept alive is explained by several reasons:

1) Various voices that gave and give credibility to the proposal, such as Alberto Acosta himself, who both in his capacity as minister and president of the Constituent Assembly remained a qualified spokesperson, as well as that of several government officials who have been hell-bent on keeping expectations current despite mixed signals.

2) The new Constitution that establishes a series of restrictions on the oil option. It is no longer possible to carry out operations without first having an acceptance from the National Assembly and eventually from the entire citizenry, through a popular consultation (Article 407). In the Montecristi Constitution, it is also explicitly established that affecting the territory of peoples in voluntary isolation can constitute a crime of genocide. (Article 57). These peoples already have precautionary measures granted on May 10, 2006, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

3) Civil society, under the Amazon Campaign for Life and with the slogan El Yasuní depends on you ... with a permanent job, has been positioning a sense of belonging, fascination and responsibility towards Yasuní.

4) And, we must not forget, the fall in oil prices caused by the international financial crisis. The net present value of the income expected for the State from the exploitation of the ITT has declined from 11,000 million dollars (about 847 million annually) [5] to 1.29 billion dollars (about 99 million annually), for a barrel price of WTI crude (much lighter than ITT) at $ 40.9 [6]

A growing questioning of the extractivist model, and what is now called "senile developmentalism" is growing in the country. The past indigenous mobilizations, more than a simple protest against the mining law, were expressions in that sense. The inhabitants of Ecuador know the damages caused by oil operations. These damages, called by economists "environmental liabilities" dismantle the "great opportunity" discourse. From the lawsuit against Chevron-Texaco not only do we have the images and testimonies of the disastrous nature of these operations, but today we know the high cost of the repair, today calculated at 27,000 million dollars (that is, 9 times more than the amount demanded by the President Correa as compensation for not exploiting the Yasuní). [7]

Although contradictory positions hit the ITT initiative internationally, favorable positions have been achieved from various parliaments (particularly the German Parliament) and various civil society organizations. Especially parliamentarians from different countries, who have expressed their enthusiasm in favor of protecting the Yasuní, and hope that the government of Ecuador will determine the procedures to crystallize their support.

At this point it is good to note that this initiative was echoed in other oil regions in the world. There are several countries working on similar proposals, seeking to be compensated in some way for not extracting the oil and thus contribute to avoiding global warming. The Nigerian proposal [8], for example. So deep has this initiative penetrated that George Monbiot, a well-known oil analyst, wrote about the Climate Change meeting in December 2007:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it may sound, I have stumbled upon the only technology that will save us from rampant climate change! No patent, no fine print, no hidden clauses. This technology - a new way radical approach to capturing and storing carbon - it's already causing a stir among scientists. It's cheap, it's efficient, and it can be applied right away. It's called… leaving fossil fuels underground. "

Rethink the concept and strategy of the initiative

The Yasuní proposal will continue in force, both because there is a decree that establishes it, and because it is no longer only Ecuadorian. However, two critical issues still need to be resolved. One, the lack of a clear concept to crystallize the proposal. And two, the absence of a true strategy for action.

In relation to the first point, we must return to the path of political conceptualization above the market relationship. This is a central issue when talking about the consistency of the proposal. It is necessary to recharge the content of the initiative, recover the initial motivations, give clarity to the proposal.

The carbon market is an unreliable market and one that will probably end up disappearing, as happened with the sale of plots on the moon. [9] It is impossible for the carbon market to extend property titles to unverifiable situations, such as carbon quotas and the functions of Nature. In this type of commodification, unforgivable abuses are committed, such as trying to extend rights over forests or arbitrarily claiming to be owners of the atmosphere. The business depends on the number of titles that are placed in the market. There, too, speculation has taken root. The emission credit market, impossible to verify, is saturated. This trading system has turned into a bubble similar to the one that caused the global economic crisis.

Otherwise this model is a farce. Justice is renounced. Who else pollutes is rewarded. And not only that, it is allowed to continue to contaminate. It is a dirty business, because there are no rules of solidarity or responsibility in the market. But, in addition, it is a bad business recognized by very different sectors:

- The Wall Street Journal, in March 2007, acknowledged that emissions trading "will make a profit for some very large companies, but don't believe for a minute that this charade will be of any use in solving global warming." Carbon trading is an "old-fashioned pursuit of profit ... making money by cheating the regulatory process."

- Newsweek, also in March 2007, stated that this market "is not working ... (and that it represents) a grossly inefficient path of reducing emissions in the developing world." It's a trade comparable to the fraudulent "cap game," which has transferred "$ 3 billion to some of the worst carbon polluters in the developing world."

- The Guardian in June 2007: "the truth about Kyoto - huge profits, and a little bit of carbon saved ... Abuse and incompetence in the fight against global warming ... The inconvenient truth about the carbon offset industry."

When working, in the same international arena, for overcoming racism, there were even those who bet on market measures and funds were used to pay for freedom ... unfortunately, the ransoms paid became incentives for merchants to raise the price of his slaves.

Like the fight for equality, the fight for climate justice has begun. There is already talk with force and with less and less evasion of the crime that puts the life of the planet at risk. As for climate change, a concept of justice is also incorporated. Climate justice implies facing the unequal distribution of the impacts of climate disasters as well as the economic benefits generated by the model that causes climate change. The countries of the North have accumulated economic wealth at the cost of nature and the impoverishment of the peoples of the South, who in turn are the victims of global warming.

The next summit in Copenhagen, in December 2009, will be a new moment of negotiations, where depending on the strength and clarity of the proposals, transcendent qualitative leaps can be achieved. Enough of patches. The world requires radical and structural solutions. For this, it will be necessary to come up with a consistent proposal that allows to leave the oil on land in the Yasuní and move towards climate justice.

If, on the one hand, the basic concept of the proposal must be discussed again, on the other, simultaneously, it is urgent to redefine the action strategy. There is a lot of room to develop Yasuní's proposal, not to exploit the oil in the subsoil. Their position can be sought in the United Nations discussions. You can motivate the various funds of international cooperation. One can even appeal to common sense and the participation of international civil society. But this implies a lot of coherence inside and outside the country. And to achieve this, you should not arbitrarily play with the two options: leave the oil on the ground or exploit it. It would be intolerable, that after this ambiguous management of the Ecuadorian government, it is intended to foil potential donors, whether governmental or not, of failure, and even less to environmentalists ...

The initiative to save Yasuní has ​​no future if affirmative steps are not taken within the country to overcome the extractivist model and if the same initiative is not part of an aggressive foreign policy of the Ecuadorian government. Consistency in action within and outside of Ecuador is required, not just presidential speeches.-

By Hope Martinez, Amazon for Life campaign - Tendencia Magazine - FES - ILDIS


[1] Esperanza Martínez is a Member of Acción Ecológica and coordinator of the Campaign Amazonía por la Vida

[2] Block 117 was signed in 2006, it affects the Guepi nature reserve and borders the Ecuadorian border.

[3] Petrobras and Pluspletro each signed a 50% stake in 6 areas, from XXVI to XXI in 5.7 million hectares.

[4] To get 44MBP from Tiputini, which has 14.7 API degrees, they required 35 MBD from Eden Yuturi, 19.8 API, 17 MBP from Pañacocha with 24 API degrees according to the Visualization Study for the development of the ITT Block prepared by the ESPE and NCT of July 2008

[5] In April 2007 there was talk of a net profit of 700 million a year

[6] Figures are as of December 22, 2008

[7] The cost is that presented by the Court's expert in 2008, as an estimate of what Chevron should pay within the lawsuit.

[8] In this case, it is calculated that what would be obtained from the new oil operations would be equivalent to 156 dollars a year per Nigerian citizen, and that those who cannot pay it because they are below the extreme poverty line, could be helped by cooperation international

[9] The so-called Lunar Embassy, ​​of North American origin, founded in 1980 by Dennis Hope, offered the market an acre of the Moon (0.405 hectares) at 37 dollars (30 euros).

What can I do?

Video: Progressive land reclamation in the oil sands (June 2022).


  1. Kevin

    Wonderful phrase

  2. Dalon

    I agree - if with censorship :)

  3. Gerrard

    Why is the subscription still free? )

  4. R?

    Excuse, that I interrupt you, but, in my opinion, there is other way of the decision of a question.

  5. Darrold

    There is something in this and the idea is excellent, I support it.

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