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26 May 2009: Carbon Plan in Ecuador
Would Leave Jungle Oil Reserves Untapped

Conservationists are working on a plan that would leave a vast oil deposit in the pristine jungle of the Ecuadorean Amazon undeveloped, in exchange for billions of dollars in payments from governments and companies looking to purchase carbon offsets. The oil fields — which contain about 20 percent of Ecuador’s oil reserves — lie under the Yasuni National Park in northeastern Ecuador, an undeveloped area that harbors some of the richest biological diversity on earth. Under the conservation plan, Ecuador would sell certificates on fledgling carbon markets that would allow governments or companies to emit carbon dioxide in amounts equal to the carbon left underground in Yasuni. Scientists have estimated that if the oil extracted from Yasuni was extracted and combusted, it would produce roughly 400 million tons of carbon dioxide; the sale of those carbon offsets could yield the country and the Yasuni Indians $4 billion to $7 billion. Bringing such a plan to fruition faces many hurdles, including the need for a December climate summit in Copenhagen to create the legal mechanisms for such carbon offset projects to operate.

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