It’s been one week since the hammer fell to announce the end of the COP26 negotiations, and we’re still left with a bitter aftertaste. As Joe Moeono-Kolio, a Pacific climate policy adviser and campaigner put it, the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 °C is “barely alive” – and with it our chance to limit the deadly, unpredictable effects of the climate catastrophe.
While representatives of major gas and oil companies came to rub shoulders with decision-makers, not all Pacific Nations’ delegates could travel to the conference this year, hindered by the logistical challenges posed by yet another global crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Pacific Island nations have contributed only a fraction of the world’s carbon emissions, they are at a risk of disappearing because of them. These countries live under the threat of a rising ocean that could swallow them whole in a not-so-distant future, and the challenges they are facing are also those that COP26 failed to address.
On top of this, foreign-owned extractives companies represent one of the largest industries in the region – an industry which comes with immense environmental consequences for the Pacific communities but hardly benefits them.
Corruption plays a key role in enabling these dynamics in the Pacific region, just like it does globally.
From fossil fuel lobbying to the illegal rosewood trade, Transparency International’s Climate & Corruption Atlas documents cases of corruption in climate finance. These stories underscore the importance of protecting these multi-billion-dollar flows of money from corruption.
The Global Corruption Barometer – Pacific 2021, the largest public opinion survey on corruption ever conducted in the region, revealed this week that 56 per cent of the Pacific Islanders we spoke to in ten countries think corruption in business is a big problem. This figure rises to an astonishing 90 per cent in Solomon Islands, one of the largest exporters of tropical wood globally, where many senior government leaders have held direct interests in logging concessions.
What is more, almost half of respondents think there is little control over the companies who extract natural resources in the region, and 68 per cent believe that businesses rely on money or connections to obtain government contracts.
It might have been easy for the major powers to overlook Pacific Nations and their fate at COP26. But global crises spare no one: unless drastic steps are taken now, these same impacts will be felt everywhere.
Corruption not only fuels climate change, but it also remains a major barrier to successful climate adaptation and mitigation measures. That is why the fight for climate justice goes hand-in-hand with the fight against corruption.
Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean’s powerful rallying cry, “we are not drowning, we are fighting”, resonates beyond the oceans. Pacific communities give us hope when it comes to corruption too: more than two thirds of respondents told us that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption. Their voices should be heard.
Young democracies, rich natural endowments, frequent natural disasters and relatively small populations characterise many Pacific Island nations, making them vulnerable to particular corruption risks. See what Pacific Islanders have to say about corruption in ten countries.
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