Include Yasuní ITT in the Ecuadorian Popular consultation

In Kyoto in 1997, the organization Oilwatch proposed that remaining oil be left in the ground in areas that had suffered or were expected to suffer from the effects of petroleum extraction, including soil and water pollution, and from the effects of the burning of natural gas. Too many human lives had been lost, and too much of the natural environment destroyed. No reparations had been made for damages perpetrated by Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador or Shell in Nigeria. Environmental liabilities were not recognized by private or state companies. This was the context that gave rise to Nnimmo Bassey’s slogan "leave the oil in the soil", which was quickly supplemented by "leave the coal in the hole".

Early on, Oilwatch linked its oil moratorium proposal to global concern about climate change. When Svante Arrhenius published his articles on climate change in 1896, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 300 parts per million. It has now reached more than 400 ppm and continues to rise. Arrhenius could not have known that in the twentieth century the burning of coal would increase seven times worldwide nor how much more carbon would be added to the air by the burning of oil and natural gas. What Arrhenius called the greenhouse effect is increasing faster and faster, accompanied by the acidification of the oceans.

The proposal to leave a large proportion of the remaining oil, coal and gas in the ground is therefore reasonable. This proposal originates in places devastated by fossil fuel extraction such as the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon and the Niger Delta. But parallel disasters can be witnessed in the coalfields of Colombia, China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh and in the tar sands region of Canada. Protests are growing as well over fracking, oil and gas pipelines, and pollution from coal-fired electric power plants. And in Germany the Ende Gelände movement against lignite mining has recently come to prominence. Together such protests form form part of what Naomi Klein calls a global "Blockadia".

It was in Ecuador, in the middle of the world, that the organization Acción Ecológica joined forces in 1995 with ERA of Nigeria as well as other environmental groups to found Oilwatch, which made the moratorium on oil extraction its main platform. Later, in 2006, Acción proposed specifically that the oil in the ITT fields (Ishpingo, Tiputini, Tambococha) in Yasuní National Park be left in the ground. The proposal was accepted in 2007 by the then Minister of Energy and Mines, Alberto Acosta, and by the Foreign Ministers María Fernanda Espinosa and Fander Falconí (who served between 2007 and 2010). The Yasuní proposal enjoyed great popular success and a form of it was even adopted by President Rafael Correa. However, Correa subsequently opened the ITT fields to exploitation. A 2013 petition for a referendum on the issue organized by the Yasunídos group – signed by over three-quarters of a million people – was nullified by a court on technicalities.

The election of a new president in Ecuador, however, has now revivified hopes for a national referendum on oil extraction in the ITT fields in Yasuní and other territories in Ecuador’s Amazon region.

We, the undersigned, wish to support the renewed call within Ecuador for a referendum in support of a Yasuní free of oil extraction. Our support comes with great admiration for the pioneering work of so many in Ecuador toward the goal of making not only their own country, but also the rest of the world, free of further oil extraction.

To further this campaign kindly tweet: Ask President @Lenin to include the question of the Yasuní ITT in the Ecuadorian Popular consultation. Retweet if you agree.

You can also post this letter on your Facebook page and link @LeninMorenoEC