There is more biological diversity in Ecuador's Yasuni rainforest than almost anywhere else in the world. No surprise it is protected as a national park and UNESCO biosphere reserve.
But the Yasuni region also sits atop Ecuador's largest known oil reserve, several hundred million barrels. Oil is the country's most important export. Without petrodollars and petro-jobs the country would likely be even poorer than it already is. No wonder several oil companies are pressuring the government to issue drilling licenses.
Hoping to prevent this from happening, Ecuador's environment minister requests for compensation to keep the oil under the forest, under the form of "CO2" or carbon credits.
Carbon credits are a way companies and countries have been stimulated to initiate environment friendly initiatives trying to cap global CO2 emissions.
If a country or company pollutes, it needs to ensure it holds an equal amount of "environment credits". CO2 credits can be bought on the international market from companies or countries who 'produce' environmental improvements, e.g. planting a forest.
But no country or company received carbon credits yet, for... "not doing anything" i.e. for keeping "nature untouched". And that's what Ecuador's critics are now claiming: "How can one be paid for not touching nature?"
What then if companies start asking money for not drilling oil in the Northsea, in Kuwait's desert. How about if any country with a tree asks for money not to chop that tree. Or worse, how about any country would ask credits for not starting a lucrative but polluting project?
Ecuador might also venture in more innovative solutions, which probably look more feasible. Projects such as offering a "virtual" carbon credit on the Internet, for anyone to buy. So maybe next month, you can buy your kids a piece of virtual untouched Ecuadorian rainforest. (Full)
More on The Road about environment and pollution.
Picture courtesy AFP