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Ecuador to Europe: Pay us not to drill in Amazon

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador’s president is in London this week to promote a unique proposal: pay his country $3 billion not to drill for oil in a pristine Amazon reserve.

Germany and Spain have expressed interest in President Rafael Correa’s idea, which environmentalists say could set a precedent in the fight against global warming by lowering the high cost to poor countries of going green.

“This is the first time the government of a major oil-producing country has voluntarily offered to forego lucrative oil extraction in order to help combat climate change,” said Dr. Matt Finer, staff scientist for Save America’s Forests and author of a study on Correa’s initiative.

But Correa’s idea is two years old and he has yet to receive a firm cash commitment.

Under the plan, rich countries would pay Ecuador at least half the revenues that the 850 million barrels of heavy crude oil estimated to be in Ecuador’s remote Yasuni National Park would be expected to generate over the next 10 years – or about $3 billion.

Ecuador says not drilling for the oil would keep 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a figure that has caught the attention of green-conscious governments in Europe.

But this month, Germany contradicted Ecuador’s claims that it had already committed $50 million over 13 years to the initiative.

“The amount of a potential donation and the method and period over which it would be paid have yet to be determined,” a German government official told The Associated Press last week in Berlin, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.