Interactions Between Oil and Environmental Policy in Ecuador
Global public policy in 2023 is dominated by two interrelated challenges: the climate crisis and the clean energy transition. Ecuador, rich in both oil and biodiversity, represents a case study of the convergence of two apparently divergent economic development agendas: oil production and biodiversity conservation. Both are central to national policy objectives. Like other Latin American nations, Ecuador’s fiscal solvency is determined by natural resource prices. Policy-making and legislation relating to oil, Ecuador’s number one export, have historically been state priorities for maximizing economic benefits. However, Ecuador also hosts important biodiversity, which has led the country to sign environment-related conventions towards conservation and fighting climate change. Ecuador’s environmental efforts in recent decades have become a cornerstone of its diplomatic presence internationally.
This study examines the interaction of oil and environmental policy in Ecuador. We analyze primary legislation and interview data, beginning with the most recent decrees on oil extraction and environment enacted in the first months of President Guillermo Lasso’s tenure. We describe the interactions, in the form of contradictions, affinities and partnerships, of oil and conservation efforts and the implications of the simultaneous prioritization for conservation and climate change goals. We draw upon these interactions in Yasuní National Park, where the financial scheme of conservation is determined by a tense dependency on oil rents and corporate participation. We argue that oil-based economic priorities overrule conservation goals. Consequently, oil extraction in territories of biocultural significance remain legitimated by the national government, due to the reliance on oil for funding land conservation and national parks. We conclude by considering Ecuador’s global position in conservation and climate-related efforts, and advance multi-scalar, inter-sectoral policy ideas for overcoming policy contradictions.
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