• Lead-organizer: Ecuador
  • 13:00 - 14:30
  • Date: 20 Jun 2012
  • Room: P3-E

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative: shifting paradigms for a sustainable future

Organizing partners

UNDP-MPTF (multi partner trust fund office)


The Yasuní-ITT Initiative is a pioneering and holistic climate change mitigation and social development proposal. Yasuní National Park, located in Ecuador´s Amazon rainforest, is among the top 5 biodiversity hotspots of the planet, as well as home to indigenous cultures living in voluntary isolation. The Yasuní-ITT Initiative intends to indefinitely abstain from extracting 846 million barrels of oil from the ITT fields hereby avoiding the emission of 406 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and significantly contributing to global climate change mitigation efforts while conserving both the incredible biodiversity the Yasuní National Park holds and the ancestral indigenous cultures living there in voluntary isolation.

Detailed programme

The Yasuní National Park, part of the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle, is probably the most biodiverse place on the planet. Home to many unique and endemic species, the national park, almost 1 million hectares in size, was declared by UNESCO a ?World Biosphere Reserve? in 1989. This biodiversity hotspot has been reported to contain 593 species of birds, 2,274 species of trees, 80 species of bats, 150 species of amphibians, 121 species of reptiles, and 4,000 species of vascular plants. There are also more than 100,000 species of insects per hectare. Far from the interference and destruction of civilization, it is a living laboratory where life flourishes in a complex equilibrium with nature, a magic place where new species have evolved and are still evolving.
The Yasuní National Park is also home to Waorani and Kichwa communities, as well as the Taromenane and Tagaeri, two other indigenous groups in voluntary isolation, looking to preserve their ancient culture and traditions.
Recently, large deposits of heavy crude oil have been identified in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) fields, located in the Yasuní National Park. These reserves represent around 846 million barrels of heavy crude oil. Not surprisingly, the petroleum industry?s eyes are focused on that fragile piece of land, in the hope to start extracting what represents as much as 20 percent of the national oil reserves.
Most experts and scientists agree that if Ecuador decides to extract the oil from the Yasuní National Park, the opening of roads, the deforestation, and the contamination associated with oil exploitation will lead to the extinction of many of its unique species.
During the United Nations General Assembly In September 2007, President Rafael Correa announced that Ecuador had decided to forego the exploitation of oil in the Yasuní-ITT area, a substantial sacrifice for a small developing country whose economy still depends on petroleum, choosing to put social and environmental values first, while exploring other ways to benefit the country economically.
The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was born from this proposal. It aims at preserving the Yasuní National Park?s biodiversity by foregoing the exploitation of petroleum in the most pristine part of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, known as the lungs of the planet. By leaving this petroleum underground, the government of Ecuador is contributing to combating global warming by avoiding the emission of approximately 407 million tons of CO2.
In exchange, the Ecuadorian government seeks the financial contribution of the international community as a gesture of co-responsibility in the fight for climate change. It is estimated that the exploitation of petroleum would generate USD 7.25 billion over the next 12 years, the time it would take for the reserve to be completely exploited. The Ecuadorian government is seeking half of that amount in order to preserve this delicate part of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, with the perspective of shifting from an ?extractivist? economy to an economy based on the development of renewable energies.
The contributions coming from governments, private sector, and civil society to support the Yasuní-ITT Initiative are deposited in a trust fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A significant portion of the fund will be invested in renewable energy projects, and the interest produced by the fund will be allocated to reforestation and conservation projects, social development projects in the area covered by the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, and projects aimed at avoiding deforestation and promoting energy efficiency and research and development.
In September 2011, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative was the focus of High Level meeting during the United Nations General Assembly hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Rafael Correa. During the meeting, countries such as Australia, Turkey, regional governments of France and Belgium as well as private sector organizations and individuals pledged to contribute to the Yasuní Trust Fund administered by UNDP. As Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated during the meeting: ?The world is just learning about Yasuní. The Initiative is clearly striking a chord. (?) Sustainable development is possible; it only takes leadership, creativity and commitment.?
By the end of December 2011, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative had collected more than $US 116.000.000 in pledges, a huge accomplishment in a time of world economic crisis.
Twenty years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the international community is coming together to assess the progress made since 1992. In this context, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative emerges as a concrete example of a small developing country proposing concrete measures to shift paradigms for a sustainable future.
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