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Johan Eliasch, chairman, Head group

  • Story Highlights
  • Johan Eliasch, Chairman of the Head group, speaks to CNN's The Boardroom
  • Eliasch has started an environmental foundation called "Cool Earth"
  • He has bought some of the Amazon rainforest to cut carbon emissions
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Searing summer temperatures, melting polar ice-caps and extreme weather have all been attributed to climate change.


Johan Eliasch, chariman of the Head group, speaks to CNN's Todd Benjamin in The Boardroom.

Many say this climate crisis is the result of global warming caused by increased carbon emissions.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has produced a film on climate change. Concerts are raising awareness of it too. But what is the business world doing about it?

Johan Eliasch, Chairman of the Head group, started a foundation called "Cool Earth." He has bought a piece of the Amazon rainforest the size of London. CNN's Todd Benjamin spoke to Mr. Eliasch and asked what he hoped to accomplish.

Eliasch: Rainforest deforestation accounts for over 20 percent of the global carbon emissions and it's probably the easiest thing to have impact, because all other actions we take against climate change take years to actually get results -- if it's new technologies, if it's reduced consumption, it doesn't happen over night.

So what I'm trying to achieve with this, is at least protect a small piece of the rainforest from being deforested and with that, hopefully, inspire other people to do exactly the same that I have done.

Benjamin: Now, of course, you made your mark in the business world by dealing with companies that needed to be restructured and dealing with distressed debt. Your approach to global ecology is to treat global ecology like a distressed debt.

Eliasch: We are in a somewhat distressed situation, given where we are with global warming and the disastrous effects that it can have on the environment, and the way we live life. We have got to do something about it and the only way to do something is to take action, and action means actually doing something and not just talking about it.

Benjamin: Basically, as a result of you buying this acreage some people were without jobs, about a thousand people were involved in the timber industry and you have been accused of "green colonialism;" how do you respond to those charges?

Eliasch: Let me answer that in two parts, because that is a core issue in all this. First of all, yes, it is true that I laid off one thousand people in a saw mill, when I stopped the logging activity which was obviously essential to my objective.

But, what I also did, and that is the most important thing here, was to explore a model whereby I let the local indigenous population go and harvest my lands free of charge. And through that program I have actually created 1500 jobs, so that means a net increase of 500 jobs.

That is something that is very important here and that gets to the core issue, which is the only way to save the rainforest is you have to make it more valuable standing than logged.


Benjamin: So you see a different business model?

Eliasch: It's not really a business model -- this is a sustainable protection model. That model makes it essential that you change the economic paradigm away from logging or clear-cutting, to plant soy beans, whatever, for methadone production or otherwise, away from that, to making it more profitable to keep those trees where they are and not touching them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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