Net Avoided Emission: An alternative mechanism to Biodiversity Conservation

yasuni itt6The UN program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation known as REDD and its complementary program REDD+. Aim to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by protecting forest. This is avoiding lost habitat, which is a direct effect on biodiversity loss.

Nevertheless the applicability of the REDD and REDD+ mechanism is a difficult task to apply by developing countries due to their situation of vulnerability, which can be understood as the lack of governance, political stability and civil empowerment over the natural resources. It is argued that the assumptions that underpin the REDD and REDD+ mechanism, misinterpret the real situation of developing countries. Some of the criticism to REDD can be found (Here or here).

As an alternative to the REDD mechanism, the Government of Ecuador in 2007 proposed the ‘Yasuni ITT’ initiative (Here) (which proposed to leave indefinitely underground reserves of 846 million barrels of oil, under the condition of necessary compensation by the international community). Through this initiative Ecuador posed the concept of Net Avoided Emissions (NAE).

The ‘Yasuni ITT’ was abandoned in 2013 and the oil drill operation is now taking place in the rainforest of Ecuador. However in this blog I would like to rescue the concept that underpinned the Yasuni ITT; that is, NAE as a valuable mechanism, which can become a technical-environmental tool that could allow developing countries to contribute in the mitigation of GHG emissions, biodiversity loss and climate change. By adopting this system these countries would perceive a compensation for its environmental services avoiding the emission of CO2.


What it is the NAE?

NAE are those GHG emissions which occur within each country’s economy but are avoided.

How it works?

The host country commits to the non exploitation of certain natural resources of its territory. As a compensation for its environmental contribution, the host country must perceive a monetary retribution equivalent to the market price of total tons of CO2eq avoided, plus an additional component for biodiversity conservation. The monetary retribution must be funded by the international community, mainly throughout financial contributions to the Yasuni Trust Fund and/or recognition of Yasuni Guaranteed Certificates (CGYs) in proposed North American carbon markets. Its application allows biodiversity protection in areas where GHG emissions are avoided, e.g. by leaving fossil fuels underground.

The United Nation Framework of Climate Change (UNFCC) will play a major role as regulatory organisation. The mechanism could operates either by the agreement of a conglomerate of countries or by bilateral agreements between the parts.


It is important to clarify that NAE is a project/mechanism that must be developed, but its concept based on the recognition of the contribution through environmental service that the host countries will offer to the humankind and the change of the paradigm of ‘philanthropic acts’ by ‘Compensation’ are concepts that must be taken into account as a new way to focus the issue in developing countries.

About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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1 Response to Net Avoided Emission: An alternative mechanism to Biodiversity Conservation

  1. This is an interesting initiative. However, do we run the risk that countries would claim, as avoided emissions, fossil fuels that they may not have extracted anyway (which apparently is a large proportion of total fossil fuels)? This would lead to fewer avoided emissions than would have occurred. And if it’s such a good mechanism, why did the Correa Government in Ecuador abandon it? Phil

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