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  • Writer's pictureRedação Belterra

““There is no way possible without large-scale reforestation””

SPEAK UP INVESTOR



Johannes van de Ven is CEO of the Good Energies Foundation, a private organization dedicated to fostering climate mitigation businesses, ecosystem restoration and reforestation. Johannes has worked at Bozano, Simonsen investment bank in the areas of private equity and venture capital; and in the private philanthropy area of Porticus América Latina. Johannes has a doctorate in Moral Theology, Business Ethics and Economic Development from the University of Louvain (Belgium), he has taken postgraduate courses at PUC-RJ and has done academic researchs in the Brazilian Amazon. Currently, in addition to managing Good Energies, Johannes is on the Board of Arapyaú, WRI Brazil and SELCO India. The Good Energies Foundation is an investor in Belterra Agroforestry and Belterra Institute.


 

BELTERRA: Johannes, you have a solid career in the investment and sustainability market. What evolutions have you noticed since you started working in this area?


In fact, I observed great changes during my academic training, in the 90s, and also in my professional career. I had the great privilege of studying at PUC-RJ with the group that ended up designing and launching the Plano Real. Equally important in my background was the Eco-92 event, which is still considered the largest United Nations conference on sustainable development. The great novelty of this event was the involvement of the business world in environmental issues. I remember the events at Aterro do Flamengo where the vanguard of the world's business community manifested itself in favor of a green shift. After my graduation, I joined the Bozano, Simonsen investment bank with Roberto Campos Neto, the current president of the Central Bank. At this stage, I was able to closely follow the privatizations of the mining company Vale do Rio Doce, the steelworks Tubarão, Cosipa and Usiminas, the energy companies CELPA and CEMAT, and Embraer. At that time, the Brazil brand was in fashion in the financial market.



BELTERRA: You have had a strong relationship with Brazil for many years now. How do you believe that Brazil should position itself in relation to the needs of investments and global projects related to the commitment to zero greenhouse gas emissions?


I believe and bet a lot on the giant Brazilian potential. This is not just a matter of training or passion, but also of science!


There is no way to keep global temperature rise between 1.5°C and 2°C without promoting large-scale protection and reforestation in the Amazon.

And I'll say more: an Amazon with a standing forest and flowing rivers is Brazil's great competitive edge on the planet. Brazil took a long time to value its natural assets, which are in fact the most valuable on the planet. Agribusiness knows very well that illegal deforestation both in the Amazon and in the Cerrado is a big shot in the foot. Both society and Brazilian companies are being penalized for devaluing natural assets, especially in a context of environmental crisis. If we do not turn this sad page soon, we will also miss out on great future opportunities.



BELTERRA: How can large companies and commercial banks contribute to fostering new impact companies?


During my seven years working in Brazilian investment banking on Wall Street in New York, I learned how companies or big capital can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Problem in the sense of contributing to atmospheric pollution and destruction of nature. Solution in the sense of investing in clean energy, decarbonizing value chains and monetizing nature.

Investors play a very important role: if investment banks finance new coal plants today, this perpetuates pollution for decades.

It is crucial that we move forward in the institution of laws that make it more expensive and difficult to invest in polluting industries, and at the same time favor and make it cheaper to invest in regeneration and restoration businesses.



BELTERRA: What opportunities do you see for venture capital and concessional capital investments in fostering impact businesses?


I see a key role for this type of investor. The traditional world of finance still does not welcome, or considers it too risky, to bet on clean energy or nature. Lack of liquidity, legislation, etc. There is therefore a huge opportunity for philanthropy to move forward with proof of concept and feasibility studies. This kind of patient capital plays an important role in creating new asset classes and incubating new ventures. Once a proof of concept has been established and the risk mitigated, commercial banks, pension funds, asset managers, insurers and reinsurers can come in full force. I think we're close to a point of no return. Vanguard banks already want to avoid or sell assets that tend to lose value in the future due to destruction or pollution. They are already positioning themselves for a net zero emissions footprint.


Another trend is the emergence of natural capital banks, involving natural assets such as land, agricultural production. After so many mortgage scandals and speculative bubbles in the market, there is a tendency to appreciate real assets. The price of land has been increasing in almost all geographies of the world. The pandemic has greatly accelerated these trends.


BELTERRA: Catalytic capital is very important for reducing investment risk. How do you evaluate the contribution of this capital to the bioeconomy of the Amazon?


Catalytic capital will be crucial for us to gain time and scale. On the one hand, we cannot solve social and environmental challenges with charity or philanthropic giving. On the other hand, the financial market still does not treat these challenges as an “asset class.” Catalytic capital - in the form of concessional loans, grants, guarantees, convertibles, etc. - plays a crucial role in driving this agenda forward.


Just like solar energy was considered science fiction 20 years ago and today it is a mature market. In the same way, I see agroforestry systems, the restoration of biomes, mangroves and other natural assets.


They will be increasingly valued and capitalized. The vanguard in the financial market is already starting to structure operations that value and price biodiversity, the greatest wealth of the Amazon. Brazil needs to proactively participate in this new architecture, as it tends to benefit, and a lot! And the world thanks you too!


BELTERRA: Catalytic capital is very important for reducing investment risk. How do you evaluate the contribution of this capital to the bioeconomy of the Amazon?


Catalytic capital will be crucial for us to gain time and scale. On the one hand, we cannot solve social and environmental challenges with charity or philanthropic giving. On the other hand, the financial market still does not treat these challenges as an “asset class.” Catalytic capital - in the form of concessional loans, grants, guarantees, convertibles, etc. - plays a crucial role in driving this agenda forward.


Just like solar energy was considered science fiction 20 years ago and today it is a mature market. In the same way, I see agroforestry systems, the restoration of biomes, mangroves and other natural assets.


They will be increasingly valued and capitalized. The vanguard in the financial market is already starting to structure operations that value and price biodiversity, the greatest wealth of the Amazon. Brazil needs to proactively participate in this new architecture, as it tends to benefit, and a lot! And the world thanks you too!


BELTERRA: How do you see Belterra's performance in the context of developing the Amazon based on impact businesses?


Good Energies and Belterra share a vision of the world. It's already built into the name itself! I think Belterra has the ideal formula, as it doesn't operate in just one niche or just one area. Belterra's work generates many co-benefits: in addition to restoring degraded land, it generates jobs, increases biodiversity, values land, strengthens water security, food security, and so on. Belterra's formula is not only relevant, but also urgent for Brazil and the whole world, especially for countries in the equatorial belt, which have a similar climate. In other words, Belterra does not act in that Ford format of the last century, but as a postcard of a Brazil that works.

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