Another defeat for the environment (and for us)

“The world has failed us,” said Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. “I have signed the executive decree for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and with this, ended the initiative.”

“The world has failed us,” said Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. “I have signed the executive decree for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and with this, ended the initiative.”

What might have been a model for a system that helps poor countries avoid the need to ruin their environment in order to make ends meet has failed, because the rich countries would not support it.

In 2007, oil drillers found a reservoir of an estimated 846 million barrels of heavy crude in Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador’s part of the Amazon. But the park is home to two indigenous tribes that have so far succeeded in living in voluntary isolation — and it is listed by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve. A single hectare of Yasuni contains more species of trees than all of North America.

Ecuador, which cannot access finance on international markets, desperately needs money, and the oil meant money: an estimated $7.2 billion over the next decade.

Nevertheless, Ecuadorians were horrified by the pollution, deforestation and cultural destruction that the drilling would cause: a large majority of them opposed drilling in the park.

And then Energy Minister Alberto Acosta had an idea.

What if Ecuador just left the oil in the ground? In return, Acosta hoped the rest of the world would come up with $3.6 billion (half of the forecast income from oil revenues) over the next decade, to be spent on non-polluting energy generation like hydroelectric and solar power schemes and on social programs to help Ecuador’s many poor.

The pay-off for the foreign contributors to this fund would come mainly from the fact that the oil under Yasuni would never be burned, thereby preventing more than 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. Only a drop in the bucket, perhaps, but if the model worked it could be applied widely elsewhere, offering the poor countries an alternative to selling everything they can dig up or cut down.

The idea won the support of the United Nations Development Program, which agreed to administer the Yasuni-ITT trust fund. It was set up in 2009, and the money started to come in.

But it didn’t flood in; it just trickled.

Chile, Colombia, Turkey and Georgia donated token amounts. Brazil and Indonesia (which would certainly benefit from the same sort of arrangement) promised donations eventually but didn’t actually put any money up.

Among the developed countries, Spain, Belgium and France also promised donations, Italy wrote off $51 million of Ecuadorian debt, and Germany offered $50 million worth of technical assistance to the park.

And that was it.

Not a penny from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands or Scandinavia.

Individuals put in what they could afford (including high-profile donors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore).

But four years later, the pledges only amounted to $116 million. Actual cash deposits were only $13 million. So last week, Correa pulled the plug.

“It was not charity we sought from the international community,” Correa said, “but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”

Maybe Correa could have waited a bit longer, but the idea was always Acosta’s baby and Acosta ran for president against Correa last February and lost.

It was also Acosta who led the successful drive to make Ecuador the first country to include the “rights of nature” in its new constitution.

This is a radical break from traditional environmental regulatory systems, which regard nature as property.

Ecuadorian law now recognizes the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish. It gives people the right to petition on the behalf of ecosystems, and requires the government to take these rights seriously.

Like the trust fund, this is an idea that may ultimately bear much fruit.

For the moment, however, it’s just too great an intellectual and political leap to demote the property rights of actual voters (and campaign contributors) to a status below the right to survive and thrive of mere ecosystems — even though we all depend on these ecosystems to survive ourselves.

So we continue on our merry way to a global meltdown — and this just in from London!

Fracking is now more important than wind power!

When the Conservatives came into office three years ago they pledged to be the “greenest government ever,” but they have fallen in love with shale gas, CO2 emissions and all.

The British government has announced a new tax regime for fracking described by the Chancellor, George Osborne, as “the most generous for shale (gas) in the world.”

Not only that but there will be “no standard minimum separation distance” between a fracking rig and people’s houses.

Planners considering drilling applications “should give great weight to the benefits of minerals extraction, including to the economy.”

In practice, that means that they can drill wherever they want, including your front garden.

Whereas local people will now have a veto on the construction of any wind turbines in their neighbourhood.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office explained that “it is very important that local voters are taken into account when it comes to wind farms … if people don’t want wind farms in their local areas they will be able to stop them.”

It’s OK to ruin the planet — but God forbid that you should ruin the view.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Just Posted

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Alberta could receive 76,500 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine next week

Alberta should be getting a large shipment of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine… Continue reading

An anti-lockdown protest went ahead outside a café in central Alberta on Saturday, despite pouring rain and a pre-emptive court injunction. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
RCMP investigating whether credible online threats made against officers

Online images purportedly showing officers attending weekend rally at Mirror in rifle crosshairs

Bowden Institution Black Press file photo
Bowden Institution inmate dies from COVID-19 complications

Bowden death the sixth in Canada’s federal prison system

(Contributed)
FOUND: Police locate Red Deer missing youth

Red Deer RCMP thank the public for their assistance

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Adam Feller reacts as he gets his Pfizer-BioNTech shot at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Montreal. Quebec has become the latest province to stop giving Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as a first dose.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Ontario keeps stay-at-home order; Quebec pauses Oxford-AstraZeneca shots

Ontario has announced it’s keeping its stay-at-home order in place until at… Continue reading

The flag of the Supreme Court of Canada flies outside the building following a ceremony in Ottawa, Monday March 15, 2021. The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially winning the Canadian Derby more than three years ago might have run out of legal room to reclaim the title. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Supreme Court won’t hear appeal from horse owners over derby dispute

OTTAWA — The owners of a horse that was disqualified after initially… Continue reading

People take part in a protest called 'Justice for Joyce' in Montreal, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, where they demanded justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to systemic racism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec coroner’s inquest into death of Joyce Echaquan begins as her family testifies

MONTREAL — The husband of an Indigenous woman who was subjected to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, centre, speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec tables revamp of French-language law, toughens rules for businesses, schools

MONTREAL — The Quebec government reasserted the right of Quebecers to live… Continue reading

Permanent residency
Canada announces new pathway to permanent residency for families of crash victims

Ottawa is launching a new policy to help the families of victims… Continue reading

Co-founders Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau as they appear at the WE Day celebrations in Ottawa on November 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ethics watchdog: PM didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, but Morneau did

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not breach the Conflict of… Continue reading

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew with teammates from left, forward Tsubasa Endoh, defender Omar Gonzalez and forward Patrick Mullins during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Bradley, Altidore scores in Toronto FC’s 2-0 win over Crew

ORLANDO, Fla (AP) — Michael Bradley had a goal and an assist,… Continue reading

A football with the CFL logo sits on a chair during a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Former defensive lineman Klassen tackling retirement as he did opposing quarterbacks

Klassen spent seven CFL seasons with Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa

Most Read