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The good, the bad and the Yasuni

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

OK, the good news: after months of pressure, the Ecuadorian Government has extended its self-imposed deadline for securing the support of the international community in saving the Yasuni rainforest. The deadline was the 31st December 2008, and since then things haven't been looking good. Last week we were most alarmed when it transpired that the 'ITT bloc' at the heart of the region had been put out to tender for oil companies to gobble up the rights to exploit. We thought it might be all over.

But then, just a few days later, the Ecuadorian Government issued a press release reaffirming their commitment to finding a way to protect the bloc from oil extraction, and listing governments, including Spain, Italy and Germany, who were supporting their proposal for finding enough funding to leave the black stuff in the ground. Once again, the people of Yasuni have been extended a tenuous lifeline - though clearly there are major splits within Ecuador on this.

But it would be premature to crack open the organic sparkling wine.

The bad news is that, having had little luck with their initial proposal: that Western governments should share the cost of financially compensating the Ecuadorian government for its loss of oil revenue, they have come up with a new proposal for funding the preservation of the forest. And it relies entirely on carbon trading. European energy companies and other industrial polluters will be encouraged to buy Yasuni 'credits' under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and preserve a little bit of rainforest in return for continuing their polluting ways back home.

There are many objections to using the international financial markets to preserve forests - not least that it is handing over responsibility for the long term future of some of the most precious and complex natural systems and habitats on the planet to the very same city bankers and traders who have just brought the global economy crashing to its knees... I just don't think they know best, do you?

The problems with carbon trading are explored in more depth in the current issue of the New Internationalist, which focuses on 'Climate Justice'. It is certainly not a solution for the Yasuni. Our campaign to secure a long-term future for the indigenous and local people of the region, who have still not been consulted by either their government or the Western governments supporting the proposal, continues.

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