Vice President Lenin Moreno shook hands with a leader of the indigenous Shuaras tribe after signing a deal that assures Ecuador will refrain from drilling for oil in an Amazon rainforest reserve. In return, Ecuador will receive $3.6 billion in payments from wealthy countries, about half of what it would make from the oil.
Under an agreement signed by the UN, the oilfields beneath the Yasuni reserve will remain untapped for at least ten years. The Yasuni reserve measures 10,000 sq km and hosts an enormous variety of wildlife. It is one of the most bio-diverse regions on Earth. It is also the home to several indigenous tribes, who are determined to protect their territory from oil development.
The oilfields below Yasuni contain about 846 million barrels of crude oil, which is 20% of Ecuador’s reserves. Oil is Ecuador’s primary export, but environmental organizations say it has caused immense damage to the Amazon region.
According to the Ecuadorean government, keeping the oil untapped will prevent more than 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. Hopefully, other countries will follow Ecuador’s lead.