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Leaving FF under the ground - Murmis & Larrea v0-2

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Leaving FF under the ground - Murmis & Larrea v0-2

  1. 1.       How  to  begin  maintaining  fossil  fuel  in  the  ground  now   The  Legacy  of  the  Yasuní-­‐ITT  Initiative     Maria  Rosa  Murmis  and  Carlos  Larrea         As  nations  prepare  for  binding  agreements  on  Climate  Change  at  the  end  of  this   year   in   Paris,   one   of   the   foremost   thoughts   in   their   leaders’   minds   must   be   –or   should  be-­‐  how  to  respond  to  the  politically  sensitive  and  socially  trasformational   fact  that  in  order  to  avoid  catastrophic  climate  change,  humanity  cannot  extract   more   than   about   a   third   of   proven   fossil   fuel   reserves.   According   to   scientific   evidence,  to  keep  global  warming  within  the  estimated  safe  boundary  of  a  2  °C  rise   in   global   temperature   by   2100,   the   larger   proportion   of   reserves   must   be   left   under  the  ground.       This   means   that   the   nations   of   the   world   must   collectively   make   two   critically   important   decisions   regarding   allocation   of   rights   across   the   globe:   1)   which   reserves  are  to  be  extracted,  and  which  are  to  be  left  underground,  and  2)  who   emits  how  much.     The  world  has  some  experience  managing  the  second  point.  No  experience  with   the  first.  Yet  it  is  not  true  that  we  must  start  from  zero.       In   2007,   Ecuador’s   President   Rafael   Correa   proposed   to   leave   the   oil   deposits   under  the  Ishpingo,  Tambococha  and  Tiputini  (ITT)  fields1  of  Yasuni  National  Park   in   the   ground   in   exchange   for   half   of   the   oil   revenue   the   country   would   be   forsaking.   The   Ecuadorean   State   was   willing   to   contribute   up   to   half   of   the   opportunity  cost  of  keeping  the  oil  underground,  and  the  rest  was  to  be  provided   by  the  international  community.  Unfortunately,  after  six  years  of  negotiations,  in   late  2013,  Correa  announced  that  Ecuador  would  be  abandoning  the  Yasuní-­‐ITT   Initiative   and   going   ahead   with   the   exploitation   of   the   oil   fields.   Nevertheless,   years  of  commitment  by  those  involved  resulted  in  the  creation  of  an  innovative   financial  and  institutional  mechanism,  aimed  at  leaving  the  oil  underground,  that   the  world  could  adopt  today.     The  mechanism  created  consisted  of  a  trust  fund  that  was  to  be  administered  by   the   United   Nations,   with   the   participation   of   a   multi-­‐stakeholder   committee   including   the   Ecuadorian   government   and   civil   society,   and   international   contributors.   The   Fund’s   capital   was   to   come   from   both   public   and   private   voluntary  contributions  from  the  international  community.     The   Fund   was   to   be   an   instrument   of   sustainable   development,   safeguarding   environmental  and  social  values,  including  the  protection  of  rights  and  cultures  of   the  Park’s  local  communities.  The  Fund’s  capital  would  be  invested  in  renewable   energy   projects   in   Ecuador,   and   the   interest   generated   would   be   directed   to                                                                                                                   1  846  million  barrels  of  petroleum  reserves.  
  2. 2.     sustainable  activities:  Conserving  and  preventing  deforestation  in  protected  areas   and   participatory   management   of   natural   areas   belonging   to   local   communities,   conserving  the  Park  in  such  a  way  as  to  allow  the  Tagaeri  and  Taromenane  peoples   to   remain   in   voluntary   isolation,   reforestation   and   sustainable   management   of   forests  owned  by  small  landholders,  increasing  energy  conservation  and  efficiency   nationwide,   and   promoting   social   development   and   sustainable   activities   in   the   Amazon  basin,  including  health,  education,  training,  technical  assistance  and  job   creation   in   sustainable   activities,   such   as   ecotourism,   agriculture   and   agro-­‐ forestry2.     Ultimately,  the  goal  of  the  Yasuni-­‐ITT  Fund  was  to  promote  the  transition  from  the   current   development   model,   based   on   petroleum   extraction,   which   has   demonstrably  failed  at  reducing  poverty  and  inequality,  to  a  new  strategy  based  on   equity  and  sustainability.3     Maybe  Yasuni  was  ahead  of  its  time.  Although  scientists  have  warned  for  years  that   all   known   reserves   could   not   be   burnt   if   we   were   to   stay   within   the   2   °C   temperature   increase   limit   to   avoid   a   climate   crisis,   the   world   was   not   really   listening.  Today,  as  many  of  the  world’s  leaders  appear  to  be  embracing  the  need   to  take  action,  and  as  the  importance  of  involvement  by  all  nations  –rich  and  poor-­‐   in   tackling   climate   change   is   agreed   upon,   it   seems   that   the   time   has   come   to   honour  the  legacy  of  the  Yasuni-­‐ITT  Initiative:  a  great  contribution  to  humankind   from  a  country  that  accounts  for  only  0.12%  of  the  World  GDP,  but  obviously  for  a   much  larger  percentage  of  its  climate  smartness  and  courage.     We  can  start  leaving  oil  under  the  ground  now.  We  know  we  must,  we  have  the   tools  (the  Yasuni-­‐ITT  mechanism),  and  we  are  accountable  to  our  commitment  to   comply   with   our   common   but   differentiated   responsibilities   according   to   our   respective  capacities.  That  was  what  the  Yasuni  Initiative  was  about.       If  the  world  is  to  forego  the  extraction  of  a  portion  of  known  oil  reserves,  the  first   deposits  that  must  be  left  untouched  are  those  that  would  imply  the  greatest  losses   in  terms  of  Earth’s  living  systems,  local  communities  and  world  heritage  and  those   whose   preservation   would   entail   the   greatest   additional   benefits   in   terms   of   climate  change  mitigation  and  adaptation.  In  sum,  those  fossil  fuel  deposits  that  lie   under  areas  of  high  conservation  value  located  in  developing  countries.       Fortunately  –or  unfortunately-­‐  it  is  not  hard  to  find  candidates.  Half  way  around   the   world   from   Ecuador,   in   similar   latitudes,   another   biodiversity   rich   country,   Africa’s   Democratic   Republic   of   Congo   (DRC),   is   grappling   with   the   pressure   to   exploit  oil  deposits  that  have  been  found  in  Virunga  National  Park.    The  similarities   between   Virunga   and   Yasuni   are   enough   to   say   with   confidence   that   the   Yasuni   framework  would  fit  Virunga,  and  to  venture  the  effort.                                                                                                                       2  Larrea,  Carlos  and  L.  Warnars.  2009.  Ecuador's  Yasuni-­‐ITT  Initiative:  Avoiding  emissions  by  keeping   petroleum  underground.  Energy  for  Sustainable  Development  Journal.   3  Ibid.  
  3. 3.     Both   Virunga   and   Yasuni   are   tropical   rainforest   habitats,   lying   on   top   of   oil   reserves,  in  developing  countries  (in  the  case  of  the  DRC,  it  is  one  of  the  poorest   countries  in  the  world)4,  and  both  are  National  Parks.  UNESCO  has  declared  the   first  a  World  Heritage  Site  and  the  second  a  World  Biosphere  Reserve.  Both  are   “important  bird  and  biodiversity  areas”  according  to  Birdlife  International,  IUCN   Category  II  protected  areas,  and  both  belong  to  regions  considered  Priority  Places   for   Conservation   by   the   WWF   (the   Congo   Basin   and   the   Amazon   respectively).   Virunga  has  also  been  declared  a  wetland  of  international  importance  under  the   Ramsar   Convention 5  and   is   home   to   200   of   the   remaining   700   seriously   endangered  Mountain  Gorillas6.  Ecuador’s  Yasuni  is  the  most  important  biological   reserve  in  the  Amazon  basin  and  possibly  the  most  biologically  diverse  hotspot  in   the  Western  Hemisphere7.  It  is  also  home  to  two  indigenous  groups  in  voluntary   isolation;  that  is,  that  have  chosen  to  avoid  contact  with  western  culture  and  to   continue   living   their   traditional   lifestyle   based   on   gathering,   hunting   and   semi-­‐ nomadic  agriculture.  In  addition,  the  Yasuni  Park  is  home  to  about  3000  contacted   indigenous  peoples8.     In  the  case  of  Virunga,  some  50,000  people  depend  economically  from  fishing  and   related   commercial   activities.   Four   years   ago   London-­‐based   SOCO   begun   oil   exploration  in  the  southern  half  of  the  Park.  In  June  2014,  a  campaign  led  by  the   WWF   resulted   in   the   announcement   by   SOCO   that   it   was   ceasing   its   seismic   operations  in  the  area,  yet  the  extent  of  the  commitment  to  withdraw  from  Virunga   remains  unclear.  SOCO  has  labeled  it  as  a  “parenthesis”  and  agreed  not  proceed   without  UNESCO  and  Congolese  approval.  There  is  concern  that  Park  boundaries   may   be   redrawn   or   other   means   found   to   allow   for   the   continuation   of   the   operation.       Virunga   National   Park   is   an   opportunity   for   sustainable   development   involving   local  people  and  nature  conservation,  and,  in  addition,  benefitting  the  world  with  a   means  to  start  committing  oil  reserves,  as  we  must,  to  remaining  in  the  ground.  Yet     Virunga  is  struggling  to  maintain  its  integrity.         As  the  unprecedented  challenge  of  finding  solutions  to  climate  change  is  exacting   creative  capacities  to  the  limit,  it  would  be  a  good  idea  to  build  upon  those  tools   that   have   already   been   created:   innovative,   acting   on   the   main   cause   of   the   problem  (fossil  fuel  use),  tailor-­‐made  for  the  priority  cases,  and  framed  within  the   international  commitment  to  protect  the  climate  system  on  the  basis  of  equity  and   in   accordance   with   common   but   differentiated   responsibilities   and   respective   capabilities.                                                                                                                       4   5;;;   6       7  Larrea,  Carlos.  2013.  “Extractivism,  economic  diversification and  prospects  for  sustainable   development  in  Ecuador”.  UASB-­‐Digital.   8  Larrea,  Carlos  and  L.  Warnars.  2009.  Ecuador's  Yasuni-­‐ITT  Initiative:  Avoiding  emissions  by   keeping  petroleum  underground.  Energy  for  Sustainable  Development  Journal.  
  4. 4.     The  mechanism  created  for  Yasuni-­‐ITT  could  not  only  be  applied  to  the  Virunga   case,  it  should  become  a  permanent  mechanism  of  the  UN  Framework  Convention   on  Climate  Change:  A  fund  that  developing  nations  with  biodiverse  and  culturally   rich  areas  lying  over  oil  deposits  can  apply  to.  This  facility  could  be  endowed  with   enough   start-­‐up   funds   to   initiate   the   process   of   project   preparation   and   fund   raising,   with   a   central   body   charged   with   evaluation   responsibilities,   a   coordinating   role   for   projects   world   wide,   as   well   as   monitoring   and   control.   Multilateral  institutions,  such  as  regional  development  banks,  IBRD/World  Bank,   UNDP,   UNEP,   etc.,   could   act   as   implementation   agencies   as   well   as   provide   technical  support.     Today,   as   scientific   research   provides   further   evidence   that   a   great   portion   of   known  fossil  fuel  reserves  must  remain  unused  in  order  to  meet  the  2°C  target,  the   adequacy  and  importance  of  such  a  mechanism  as  a  tool  to  respond  to  rising  global   temperatures   cannot   be   overstated.   According   to   the   McGlade   and   Ekins9  study   assessing   the   geographic   distribution   of   unburnable   fossil   fuels   by   type,   42%   of   Central  and  South  America’s  (CSA)  oil  reserves  must  remain  in  the  ground,  as  well   as  26%  of  Africa’s.  Similarly,  McGlade  and  Ekins  estimate  that  56%  and  34%  of  gas   reserves   and   73%   and   90%   of   coal   reserves   are   unburnable   in   CSA   and   Africa   respectively.10       The   world   does   not   need   to   wait   until   a   permanent   framework   under   the   Convention   is   available.   The   application   of   a   Yasuni-­‐ITT   Trust   Fund   based   mechanism   to   the   case   of   Virunga   National   Park   could   serve   as   the   first   demonstrative  project  for  that  future  framework.       The  Yasuní  Initiative  may  have  been  so  cutting  edge,  so  challenging  to  political  will,   that  it  had  to  be  temporarily  put  away  because  it  was  ahead  of  its  time.  Now  its   time  has  come.         January,  2015                                                                                                                   9  McGlade,  Christophe  and  Paul  Etkins.  The  geographical  distribution  of  fossil  fuels   unused  when  limiting  global  warming  to  2°C.    Nature  517,  187–190  (08  January   2015)   10  With  Carbon  Capture  and  Storage  the  figures  for  unburnable  reserves  change  to:   Africa,  oil  21%,  gas  33%,  coal  85%;  CSA,  oil  39%,  gas  53%,  coal  73%.