High-Level Meeting Hails Yasuni-ITT Initiative as Model

23 September 2011: A High-Level Meeting held during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) has praised an agreement between the Government of Ecuador and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), through which the former forgoes exploiting large oil reserves in its national park in return for receiving half the reserve's value through a trust fund administered by UNDP for investments in alternative energy and social programmes.

In 2006, the Government of Ecuador proposed to indefinitely refrain from exploiting the 860 million barrel Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil reserve in the Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most biodiverse spots, if the international community could provide it with at least half of the estimated US$7.2 billion value of the reserves. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative would not only preserve the Park's biodiversity, but also avoid the release of around 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon emissions.

In August 2010, Ecuador and UNDP agreed to set up the trust fund with an initial goal of reaching $100 million by end-2011. The trust fund was first open only to governments and corporations willing to donate US$100,000 or more, but on 12 September 2011 UNDP announced it would also start accepting donations from individuals and others for as little as US$25. Trust fund monies are to be earmarked for social development, renewable energy, reforestation and conservation, as well as for research, science, technology and innovation.

At the high-level meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the Yasuni-ITT Initiative for showing that "sustainable development is possible, it only takes leadership, creativity and commitment." For his part, UNGA President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (Qatar) encouraged countries to share the lessons learned and best practices from the Initiative, and to bring them to bear at the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, at the end of 2011, as well as at the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

During the meeting, the Trust Fund received pledges totaling US$53.3 million from the Governments of Colombia, Italy and Peru, and from regional governments in Belgium and France. [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Remarks] [UNGA President's Remarks]