COPs and robbers

Transparency International
05/11/2021: COPs and robbers
The world’s biggest annual climate conference, COP26, is underway in Glasgow. Despite the promise of “the most inclusive COP ever”, activists have had to follow negotiations from the sidelines. Representatives of major gas and oil companies, however, have continued to rub shoulders with decision-makers, just like in previous years.

Young people display placards as ministers prepare COP26. Milan, 1 October 2021. Image: Mauro Ujetto / Shutterstock

Earlier this week, news broke that government leaders achieved a new deal to end and even reverse deforestation by 2030. This is the first COP pledge to recognise protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples as a climate solution. Indigenous communities play a crucial role in protecting their lands from illegal deforestation but – as Transparency International recently documented – often face discriminatory corruption, so this high-level recognition is both welcome and long overdue.But don’t hold your breath just yet.

The Glasgow declaration fails to mention the need for accountability and good governance measures when delivering on these promises. In this regard, things aren’t much different from 2014, when the New York Declaration on Forests was adopted. Despite ambitious targets set back then, the Declaration has so far failed to achieve its objective, as corruption has continued to fuel deforestation.

Take Nicaragua, for example, whose signature is missing from the Glasgow deforestation deal even though the country is losing its forests at the fastest rate in the world. Deforestation rates have almost doubled since 2014, when Nicaragua’s national forestry agency came under President Daniel Ortega’s direct control.And now, an investigation from the Organized Crime and Corruption Project has found that Nicaragua’s Vice President – and Ortega’s wife – Rosario Murillo and other public officials handed out forestry permits to politically connected companies. What’s more, Nicaragua’s reforestation programmes – which are co-financed by international donors – have allegedly benefitted the private interests of a certain supreme court judge.

In 2018 alone, climate finance totalled US$546 billion globally, and corruption finds fertile ground in such vast sums of money. Cases documented by Transparency International show corruption remains a major barrier to the success of climate adaptation and mitigation measures.  

  Corruption, like climate change, is a threat multiplier with many dangerous tipping points. It not only diminishes the chance of curbing climate change, but unfairly denies the most vulnerable members of society from participating or benefitting from climate funds. Rueben Lifuka, Vice Chair of Transparency International Over the next years, as wealthy nations – many of which are the biggest polluters – scale up the delivery of climate finance, they must also do more to ensure that these funds do not end up in private pockets.Transparency International is working tirelessly around the world to build a range of integrity measures – from advocating on behalf of affected communities to proposing better mechanisms to disburse much-needed climate finance. The aim is, ultimately, to protect our people and our planet.

© Transparency InternationalClimate & Corruption Atlas

From fossil fuel lobbying to the illegal rosewood trade, Transparency International’s Climate & Corruption Atlas documents cases of corruption in climate finance and projects. These stories underscore the importance of protecting these multi-billion-dollar flows of money from corruption. 
Policy brief: Conflicts of interest and undue influence in climate action ​​​​​​
Policy development concerning climate change is an ongoing major lobbying target of some of the most powerful industries. We explore the role of industry in climate policy and the importance of addressing conflicts of interest and undue influence to ensure climate action is taken urgently, efficiently and transparently.
Policy brief: Corruption blindspots in international cooperation on climate action 
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement provides for how countries can cooperate with one another to enhance climate mitigation and adaptation actions and implement their nationally determined contributions. Transparency International recommends ways for building necessary governance and accountability measures.
Event: Enhancing integrity to avoid maladaptation 
Join Brice Böhmer, Transparency International’s Climate and Environment Lead, and other experts on 11 November for a conversation on anti-corruption strategies and integrity measures that can be incorporated in adaptation projects to avoid the maladaptation trap. 
World leaders at COP26: Urgently shift perspectives to prevent corruption from crippling climate action
Climate crisis is also a governance challenge, but the need for anti-corruption safeguards has so far been largely absent from climate talks. Transparency International is calling on governments to urgently need to shift perspectives and accelerate efforts towards transparency, accountability and integrity to ensure effective action against climate crisis. 

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