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Ecuadorians choose a future without fossil fuels

‘The Amazon, Indigenous rights, biodiversity and our climate are more important than oil’
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
A magic sunset in the Amazon Rainforest inside Yasuni national park

Main image: Amazon rainforest inside Yasuní National Park

In a historic national vote on Sunday 20 August, a vast majority of Ecuadorians voted to halt its largest oil project – underneath Yasuní National Park – and permanently keep an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil in the ground.

They also chose to protect the rights of the Tagaeri, Taromenane and Dugakaeri Indigenous peoples, living in voluntary isolation.

A biodiversity hotspot

The Ishpingo, Tiputini and Tambococha (ITT) fields lie beneath Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

Its unique position along the equator has also created an outstanding level of biodiversity, containing more than 120 reptile species, 596 species of birds, 200 mammal species and nearly 500 species of fish.

One single hectare of Yasuní forest contains at least 100,000 insect species.

A message to the world

The ballot initiative won with almost 60% of the population voting in favour.

There are an estimated 1.67 billion barrels of crude in the ITT fields, where 225 active wells currently produce 54,800 bpd.

More than 500 total wells were planned, but Sunday’s popular vote prohibits the opening of all new wells and requires state oil company Petroecuador to close wells currently in production and dismantle and remove all oil infrastructure within a year.

Another ballot measure seeking to prohibit new mining activity in the province of the nation’s capital city of Quito (Quito Sin Minería) also won.

‘Ecuadorians have sent a definitive message to the world: the Amazon, Indigenous rights, biodiversity and our climate are more important than oil.

‘This is a major victory for our planet and a strong step in protecting the last Indigenous peoples in Ecuador living in voluntary isolation. With this decision, Ecuador is positioning itself as a leader in the global movement to phase out fossil fuels to avert climate catastrophe.

‘The vote also serves as a clear warning to investors, including major US banks and asset managers, that the era of unchecked resource extraction is at an end, highlighting that further exploitation of the Amazon’s oil and mineral resources is incompatible with maintaining a liveable climate.

‘The world must follow Ecuador’s example, recognising that toxic commodities must remain untouched and that a just transition is imperative.’

Amazon Watch Climate and Energy Director

A just transition

The government now has the mandate to stop oil activities and remove infrastructure within one year as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

Civil society is calling on runoff candidates Luisa Gonzalez and Daniel Noboa to publicly detail their plans to do so.

Additionally, voters expect both candidates to embrace the will of the people to protect Yasuni National Park and commit to a just transition away from dependency on oil extraction in Ecuador.

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