Friday, August 6, 2010

Ecuador Launches International Offset Program

By Laura Peterson.

While prospects for an international climate agreement this year dwindle, Ecuador is proposing its own solution to help the developed world offset its carbon footprint: pay the South American country $3.6 billion to keep 20 percent of its oil reserves in the ground.

Ecuadorean government officials signed an agreement yesterday establishing a trust fund for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative that the United Nations Development Program will administer. Donors will receive certificates that guarantee 850 million barrels of oil will not be extracted from pristine tropical forest.

"We don't want to be an oil-exporting country forever and ever," said MarĂ­a Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador's minister of patrimony. "We really want to be a service economy, a low-environmental-impact economy, and a bio-knowledge society based on our huge biodiversity."

Several European countries, including Germany and Spain, have indicated they will participate but needed a secure donation structure, Fernanda Espinosa said. The trust fund and guarantee certificates create the financial mechanism to implement the initiative, which was first proposed by President Rafael Correa in 2007.

Oil is Ecuador's leading export and accounts for about 25 percent of its gross domestic product. Instead of relying so heavily on oil, the government is trying to generate revenue through carbon offsets. Not drilling the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil block would keep 407 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

The oil and carbon offsets are valued at $7 billion. Ecuador is asking the international community to compensate it for half of that -- $3.6 billion, over 13 years. The government is expecting to raise $100 million the first year, Fernanda Espinosa said. The money will be used to improve the nation's protected area system; reforest degraded habitat; and invest in renewable energy, science and technology and social development programs.

The proposal would also preserve 750,000 acres of the Yasuni National Park in the northeast region of the equatorial country. The park is designated as a biosphere reserve through the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with extremely diverse plants and animals. Scientists have counted more species of trees in 2.5 acres of the park than in all of North America. The park is also home to three indigenous tribes, including two that live in voluntary isolation. There is oil drilling in other parts of the Yasuni park, but the ITT block is untouched.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Wildlife and People are Faring in the Gulf

Visiting the Gulf: how wildlife and people are faring in America's worst environmental disaster, an interview with Jennifer Jacquet
By Jeremy Hance for, July 29, 2010

"President Obama called it 'the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.' So I thought I should face it and head to the Gulf"—these are the opening words on the popular blog Guilty Planet as the author, marine biologist Jennifer Jacquet, embarked on a ten day trip to Louisiana. As a scientist, Jacquet was, of course, interested in the impact of the some four million barrels of oil on the Gulf's already depleted ecosystem, however she was as equally keen to see how Louisianans were coping with the fossil fuel-disaster that devastated their most vital natural resource just four years after Hurricane Katrina.

"It seems that the people of Louisiana are a special sub-population of humanity we could call Homo resilius. They have a certain resilience to disaster that probably only exists in challenged regions of the world, like Haiti, for instance," she told, adding that her experience was paradoxical.

"When I was there, I seriously thought parts of Louisiana were like hell on earth. And then I left and I thought everywhere else seemed boring in comparison. Louisiana and the people who live there are really special."

Jacquet says that while the news media is focusing on the obvious effects of the Gulf spill, such as oiled birds, "it seems many of the effects will be more insidious. Scientists I spoke to are particularly concerned about the larval phases of fish and invertebrates, which are planktonic and not able to avoid patches of oil the way free-swimmers might."

Click here to keep reading.