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Ecuadorians vote to ban oil drilling in the Amazon

Ecuadorians have voted to ban oil drilling in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, the Yasuní National Park, situated in the Amazon rainforest.

With more than 92% of the votes counted, nearly 59% of voters rejected the oil drilling while 41% voted in favor, according to the National Electoral Council of Ecuador (CNE) on Monday morning.

The referendum comes as the impacts of human-caused climate change accelerate, as the world continues to burn fossil fuels.

Last month was the planet’s hottest June on record, and some scientists warn that the Amazon is heading towards a dangerous tipping point.

The Yasuní National Park park spans around 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) at the meeting point of the Amazon, the Andes and the Equator. Just one hectare of Yasuní land supposedly contains more animal species than the whole of Europe and more tree species than exist in all of North America.

But underneath the park lies Ecuador’s largest reserve of crude oil. In 2016, the Ecuadorian state oil company began drilling in Block 43 – around 0.01% of the National Park – which today produces more than 55,000 barrels a day, amounting to around 12% of Ecuador’s oil production.

Yasunidos, an environmental collective, has been pushing for the vote to ban drilling in the park for a decade. In May they and other groups secured a victory when the country’s constitutional court authorised the vote to be included on the ballot of the presidential election held on August 20.