Our long-time pro bono client Conservation International structures innovative financing for nature conservation and climate change projects.
Image: A biologist studying a mangrove ecosystem holds a lemon shark pup in tonic immobility in the Bimini Islands. Coastal ecosystems are critical to maintaining water quality, controlling erosion and mitigating climate change
Our use of increasingly sophisticated financing solutions has made the involvement of White & Case invaluable to our long-term success.
Romas Garbaliauskas, Senior Legal Advisor, Conservation Finance Division, Conservation International
Conservation International (CI) has been protecting nature for more than 30 years, working through a combination of science, policy and partnerships. The scope of its work requires significant financial investment, driving its Conservation Finance Division to constantly seek innovative mechanisms for public, private and crowd financing. We have worked with CI on multiple initiatives for 15 years, and in 2018 more than 30 lawyers in ten offices were engaged on a variety of funding initiatives for CI.
“While, at first glance, it wasn’t clear to me how a global corporate law firm could support a conservation organization, our use of increasingly sophisticated financing solutions has made the involvement of White & Case invaluable to our long-term success,” noted Romas Garbaliauskas, Senior Legal Advisor for CI’s Conservation Finance Division.
Our relationship started by collaborating on a series of debt-for-nature swaps pursuant to the US Tropical Forest Conservation Act, in which a portion of a nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for investment in local conservation efforts. More recently, our teams have worked on the creation of Conservation Trust Funds and a powerful new investment fund, as well as climate change programs.
Currently, our lawyers in Singapore are working with CI on a regional sustainable development trust to fund conservation efforts in Fiji. This is the fourth such fund White & Case has worked on with CI and follows the creation of a trust to support the Bird’s Head Seascape project in Indonesia, the largest privately funded place-based marine conservation effort to date.
This year’s largest project was the launch of Conservation International Ventures, an investment fund that will deploy financing to nascent small and medium-sized enterprises without access to traditional finance whose business models have a potentially transformational impact on the environment. The first loan has already been made to COOPBAM, a Peruvian coffee cooperative, and an additional US$8.5 million is being reviewed. Ideally, these enterprises will, in turn, generate profit, helping to pay off their CI Ventures loans and ensuring long-term funding and opportunities for new investments.
For CI Ventures, our New York and Australian offices were active in creating the fund structure and documentation, while deal teams have been established in Miami, New York and London. Lawyers across practice groups and offices are on standby to provide legal support. “We’re treated like a regular client by White & Case, with a deal team put together extremely quickly when necessary,” explained Romas.
For our lawyers, working with CI is extraordinarily fulfilling. “The legal work is in itself interesting, while the opportunity to set the legal framework that helps to ensure these projects are successful is extremely rewarding,” said Singapore partner Barrye Wall, who has been involved in much of our recent work for CI.
Alongside its nature conservation work, CI is looking at ways to mitigate climate change. Nature solutions have been shown to mitigate this serious global threat by 30 percent, but only 2 percent of financing goes to this type of solution. CI Ventures’ investments are therefore likely to have a direct positive impact on climate change.
This year we collaborated with CI and More Trees, a Japanese forest conservation organization working on a project to prevent deforestation in the Philippines. Working with local communities who have agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions led to the production of carbon credits. Our lawyers in Tokyo helped to transfer the carbon credits to More Trees and structure a solution that allows these to be managed via CI’s registry account.
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