WESTFIELD, NJ — Joe Battiato and Charlie Cacici are on a mission to save the rain forests and improve the lives of people living in developing nations.
Cacici, a Westfield resident, founded Global Ecology Corp. in 2012 with Battiato, who lives in Woodbridge.
Both men are 63 and have spent 35 years on Wall Street — Cacici with Solomon brothers and American Express and 12 years leading RMG, a credit risk management/due diligence firm in the residential mortgage sector. Battiato worked for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and is a Hedge Fund Manager with Ellington Management Group.
Cacici, an ordained an evangelical minister since 1999, also serves as an elder at Calvary Tabernacle in Cranford.
“He’s always been a man of integrity and we both love helping people,” Battiato said.
Back when the two men discovered their mutual passion to preserve the rain forests that proliferate in the Congo and other African nations, they said, they joined forces to resolve the destruction of forests by companies only interested in selling products extracted from the downed trees.
“In today's world,” Cacici said, “countries with large rain forests allow logging companies to clear out the rain forests, losing one to two percent of rain forests annually.”
“Our mission is to assist countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo monetize the carbon credits generated by the protection of their rain forest,” Battiato said. “Through this approach, we would save the rain forests and positively change the lives of the indigenous people. The ultimate goal is the creation of jobs and infrastructure improvements, ie., building hospitals, schools, homes, roads, etc., for the villages closest to the protected rain forest.”
Carbon credits and carbon markets are a component of natural and international attempts to mitigate the growth and concentration of greenhouse gases, Battiato explained.
“For example, one carbon credit represents the offset of one ton of carbon dioxide, or in some markets, carbon dioxide equivalent gases,” he said.
Cacici chimed in, “Carbon credits are issued in two markets: industrial and REDD — Reduction in the Degradation and Deforestation of the rain forest. Industrial carbon credit offsets are generated by businesses using methods of operation to generate electricity in ways that don't make use of fossil fuels. Those businesses include solar fields, wind farms, nuclear and hydro power.”
Agricultural processes that generate carbon credits are the prevention of rain forest deforestation, replacing trees, recycling of organic waste through microbial digesters or composting methods, he said.
REDD carbon credits are the results of photosynthesis: trees ingest carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, Cacici explained.
“This process is nature’s delicate balance in scrubbing our atmosphere and providing us with our life blood: oxygen,” he said. “These credits are only granted in cases where the country actually changes the activities that destroy the rain forest. In our case, they granted us concessions to protect the rain forest instead of providing lumber companies concessions to cut down the trees.”
“Rain forests clean the environment of pollution and protect plant and animal species that thrive because of the environment, as long as the rain forests continue to be preserved,” Battiato emphasized.
“Joe began to have a vision of how to work in the carbon credit markets,” Cacici said. “We wanted to bring change by assisting these third world countries in realizing the financial benefit of preserving the rain forest by quantifying and monetizing carbon credits. Not only are we saving the rain forests but by selling carbon credits we have a fiduciary responsibility to use the proceeds from the sale to spend that money in countries in the form of infrastructure improvements.”
Cacici expanded on their focus.
“The Minister of the Environment, along with the Governor of the Province and the local chieftans, will prioritize what projects we’ll build first,” he said. “These transactions will benefit the local population, not fill the coffers of politicians.”
Cacici said that often organizations will go in and build, only to see the villages that they built deteriorating one year later.
“As part of our budget in developing a village,” Cacici said, “we will financially incentivize the local leadership to maintain the new status quo, while the children going to our schools begin to learn that they deserve a better life. When they become adults, they’ll willingly embrace and maintain the new status quo. In order to bring long lasting change, you need to change a generation.”
Battiato said that they are about to start selling carbon credits to investors or philanthropists.
“For example, universities recently came out with a mandate to be green by 2020. By buying carbon credits from our program, they’ll see their schools turn green. There’s a powerful social impact helping third world countries,” he said. “It’s a useful PR benefit to companies investing in these carbon credits. We need to educate people in order to turn inefficiency into opportunity.”
Battiato added, “It’s a win-win situation for everybody and the Congo is just the first of seven other countries we want to help.”