Ecuador seeks credit for conservation

The Ecuadorian Amazon.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: At the G8 summit in Italy today, there was some agreement between industrialized and developing economies on limiting climate change. But as we mentioned yesterday, they couldn't come to terms on specific targets for cutting carbon emissions for poorer countries. One of the many sticking points is how much aid and assistance rich nations are willing to contribute so developing nations can afford to do make those cuts. Ecuador's one example. It's looking for $3 billion in carbon credits in return for leaving some of its Amazon oil reserves untapped. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.


SAM EATON: Many nations now accept that preserving rainforests curbs greenhouse gas emissions. So it should be worth something. But Ecuador's proposal is the first to bring oil into the equation. More specifically the value of leaving oil in the ground as a way to avoid emissions. And Remi Moncel with the World Resources Institute says it's an idea worth taking seriously. Especially since the Yasuni National Park, where the drilling would take place, is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world.

REMI MONCEL: The easy path for Ecuador to take is to drill the oil. But they're proposing a bold concept, which is leave the oil where it is and take account of the value of the park and try to protect the environment and making it economically viable.

To be economically viable the value of the emissions credits sold on the global market would need to offset the potential profits of extracting the oil. A tough sell when you consider the region holds about 20% of Ecuador's untapped oil reserves in a country where oil is the main source of revenue.

But an even tougher sell will be getting the international carbon markets on board. Ecuador recently defaulted on more than $3 billion in bonds. And then there's the question of whether untapped oil has any impact on global emissions. Mark Trexler is the head climate markets at the risk management firm DNV.

MARK TREXLER: Whether that oil is left in the ground or not doesn't really have any effect on how much oil we use around the world. People will simply get that oil from someplace else.

Meaning the avoided emissions would effectively be zero.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

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