Since the 1960s, extractive industries such as oil and mining have been endangering the Ecuadorian Amazon to pursue an extractive economic model. The result has been devastating. Oil spills, such as the emblematic Chevron-Texaco case, have polluted vast areas, millions of hectares of tropical forest have been deforested, and hundreds of indigenous communities have been displaced.
In May 2021, Guillermo Lasso became president of Ecuador with the promise that his government would take responsibility for the environment. On coming to power, he established the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition to help Ecuador achieve a sustainable economic model. However, the economic policies adopted to date fall far short of this aim.
One of these policies is Decree 95, which envisages a doubling of oil production. Each year Ecuador produces 194 million barrels of oil. A recent study on oil extraction in the country estimates that in just ten years, oil will no longer be the primary source of income for Ecuador and urges the government to change the economic model. Yet, the signing of Decree 95 runs counter to these expert findings.
In addition, if Decree 95 remains in place, the Amazon will be lost. Jessika García from COICA reports that right now, 17 per cent of the Amazon is already deforested and degraded. If this reaches 20 per cent, it will be a point of no return, and the consequences will be devastating for the entire world.
In an interview, the Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Gustavo Manrique, stated that the Ecuadorian contribution to the global carbon budget represents just 0.15 per cent. But if the Amazon is lost, Ecuador's contribution to climate change will far exceed this.
Scientist Thomas Walschburger explains that it is not only the deforestation caused by extractive industries that disrupts the carbon cycle, thus increasing carbon dioxide emissions and impacting global warming. On top of this are the CO2 emissions caused by the burning of natural gas in the 447 oil burners as well as the air, soil and water pollution caused by extractivism. Lasso's government has been in office for just four months. The United Nations Climate Change Conference is a chance for the Ecuadorian government to change extractivism and help save the Amazon and the planet.
This article was published also on climatetracker.org
Doménica Montaño is a journalist from Ecuador who loves to write stories about the environment, climate change, indigenous communities, and human rights. Her favorite story is one she wrote over a year ago about nine girls who sued the Ecuadorian state for violating their rights with the gas flaring systems that are still being used by oil companies in the Amazon. She’s very proud to say that that story was awarded an honorable mention in a human rights journalism competition.