Ecuador signed a recent deal with the United Nations not to exploit its oil-rich Amazon reserves. This deal sets up a trust fund by wealthy countries that will be worth half the expected earnings from the potential sale of oil. This should help to protect some 675 sq miles of the Amazon. This is an area that is home to indigenous tribes, thousands of species of trees and, of course, nearly 1 billion barrels of crude oil.

Ecuador, which is home to the Galapagos Islands, the Andes mountains and the oil-rich rainforest, just asked the world for $3.6 billion to not exploit the Ishpingo Tiputini Tambococha oil block in the Yasuni National Park. The oil in this area is said to be worth more than $7 billion at today’s prices. The 407 million tonnes of CO2 that would be generated by burning it could sell for over $5 billion in the global carbon market.

Of course, neither the oil block or the park is for sale. Under the terms of a unique, legally binding trust fund that was set up by the government of the UN, the oil and the timber in Yasuni will never be exploited. Now instead, donor countries and individuals around the world are being invited to pay the money in return for a non-exploitation guarantee.

The idea of rich countries paying poor countries to not exploit their forests in return for financial competition is being promoted at the global climate talks. Of course, some say that the idea of paying poor countries not to develop valuable oil reserves could be the most radical and forward looking idea yet.

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