Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is seeking international support for his initiative to protect a national park in an oil-rich area of Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest, saying coordinated action is needed to share the “public goods” of a clean environment.
In a speech Tuesday at United Nations University in Tokyo, Correa issued a call for financial contributions to help leave untouched an estimated 850 million barrels of crude oil lying under the country’s Yasuni National Park.
“The idea may run counter to the market economy, but I believe the world should reward us for our decision of not tapping the oil field,” Correa said in Spanish. “Everyone should have access to clean air and costs are incurred to secure the public goods of nature.”
The park is home to indigenous peoples and is considered one of the most diverse biological reserves in the world. By forgoing the oil development, it is estimated that more than 400 million metric tons of carbon will be prevented from being discharged into the atmosphere, thus contributing to the fight against climate change.
Correa said the idea has gained the understanding of European nations and his country is set to present the initiative at the next U.N. climate conference in Mexico in November and December. He called for backing from other developing countries in particular.
He said the initiative would eventually lead to “the equitable distribution of world wealth” and called on global citizens to redefine the concept of development.
“We think development means rapidly reaching the same level of consumption” as in developed countries, he said. “But our Andean ancestors believe development does not involve material wealth but means being able to live in harmony with nature.”
Later in the day, the Ecuadorean leader visited Hiroshima and after meeting with an A-bomb survivor pledged to make efforts toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Correa offered a silent prayer and laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and visited the adjacent museum.
After talking with Shizuko Abe, 83, who was 18 at the time of the U.S. atomic bombing, Correa said he agreed with Prime Minister Naoto Kan to seek a nuclear-free world.
“We will learn from the past and make efforts so that no one in the world will have the same experience as Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said.
Correa is on his first visit to Japan. He met with Kan on Monday.
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