Yasuni global - Let's keep it diverse and cool

Yasuní ITT

- A Revolutionary Initiative: ideas and lessons learned


The Ecuadorian Yasuni ITT initiative has gained fame as a revolutionary development approach in recent years. The idea of leaving oil under the ground to protect biodiversity and to maintain a living space of voluntarily isolated indigenous tribes is an important step towards a planet capable of providing a safe space for future generations of humanity.

Many regard the initiative as tackling climate change at its roots - addressing energy supply and questioning fossil fuel consumption. It is seen as an effective way to; preserve biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions and respect the way of life of indigenous people1.

Marinez Alier2 referred to Yasuni in 2007 as  “... new voices from the South that are clamouring to make themselves heard on climate change. They demand 'climate justice' and refuse the alms offered by the North in the form of so-called flexibility mechanisms and 'adaptation loans' which transform the polluter pays principle into the 'polluter adapts' principle”.

The idea was first conceived by scientists and civil society organizations such as Acción Ecologica and was incorporated into the agenda of the Ecuadorian government in 2007 in cooperation with the UNDP. In August 2014 the government dropped the idea and officially announced that it plans to extract the oil. Protest at the decision came from individuals and organisations from all over the world, including high profile universities, international institutions and governments. In particular, Ecuadorian citizens are fighting to maintain the idea of leaving the oil under the ground. They are calling for the 'Rights of Nature' and for the right of Indigenous People to live unaffected by extractivism to be upheld, as incorporated within the Ecuadorian constitution.

The Yasuni ITT Initiative shows us an alternative pathway for development. Academic analyses show that it can prevent the so-called “resource curse”, effectively contributing to climate change mitigation, preservation of biodiversity and lead to sustainable development3. On this website you can find a vast collection of academic and non-academic material dealing with the idea of the Initiative. In addiiton, we want to illustrate the fundamental concepts behind the idea of leaving fossil fuels under the ground and the context in which the Initiative emerged and its failure from a range of different perspectives. The idea is not dead! We see it as more relevant than ever especially after the failure of climate talks at COP 19.

This webpage aims to give as many people as possible access to the idea in all its complexity. We want to invite you on board to think creatively of new mechanisms, how leaving oil under the ground can become a powerful global model that is adaptable and implementable in different contexts worldwide.



[1] Bond P. (2009), "Conclusion: Leave the Oil in the Soil", In: Bond, P.: Dada, R. and Erion, G. (eds) Climate change, carbon trading and civil society: Negative returns on South African investments. 2 ed. Scotsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, pp. 179–201.

[2] Martinez Alier, J. (2007), "Keep Oil in the Ground: Yasuni in Ecuador", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42: 4227–4228, Abstract available at: http://www.epw.in/commentary/keep-oil-ground-yasuni-ecuador.html

[3] Vallejo, G.M.C; Larrea, C.; Burbano, R. and Falconi, F. (2011), "La Iniciativa Yasuní-ITT desde una perspectiva multicriterial". Quito: Programa Conjunto para la Conservación y Manejo Sostenible del Patrimonio Natural y Cultural de la Reserva de Biosfera Yasuní.