Scientists hail Ecuador's proposal to protect oil rich region of Amazonian rainforest

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Washington, November 6 (ANI): A team of environmental researchers has praised an innovative proposal by the Ecuadorian government to protect an untouched, oil rich region of Amazon rainforest is a precedent-setting and potentially economically viable approach.

The researchers are from the University of Maryland, the World Resources Institute and Save America's Forests.

The Ecuadorian proposal, known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, would protect a large area of pristine Amazon rainforest, by leaving untouched nearly one billion barrels of oil that lies beneath the Yasuní National Park in Ecuador.

Under the initiative, the government would sell certificates linked to the value of the unreleased carbon to provide alternative revenue to that which would come from exploiting the oil reserves.

"This is a really novel approach that could fund a lot of rainforest protection," said Clinton Jenkins, a research scientist in the University of Maryland's department of biology. "It's also an innovative way of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions," he added.

"There has been a lot of talk about engineering ways to reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions by removing carbon from air and burying, or sequestering, it in the ground. This approach sequesters carbon by preventing oil from ever getting out of the ground," said Jenkins.

According to Jenkins, Matt Finer of Save America's Forests and Remi Moncel with the Climate and Energy Program of the World Resources Institute, a number of climate researchers, including NASA scientist James Hansen, have suggested that forgoing extraction of oil and gas reserves in remote or sensitive places could be an important piece to a larger global strategy designed to limit carbon emissions and that this Initiative "is the first real offer to do just that."

"Oil and gas concessions now cover vast swaths of the mega-diverse western Amazon," said Finer.

"Ecuador's revolutionary initiative is the first major government-led effort to buck this disturbing trend," he added.

According to estimates of Ecuadorian officials, preventing exploitation of the ITT oil fields, will keep 410 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The researchers note that use of a conservation strategy like that proposed by Ecuador would be particularly beneficial in areas that also offer great ecological value.

The Ecuadorian proposal has been lauded widely for its three-pronged effort to protect biodiversity, respect indigenous peoples' territory, and combat climate change. (ANI)

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