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How can investing in integrity unlock the effects of climate action?

Participants at COP28 must prioritise integrity measures in climate funding and action to prevent corruption

Image: Transparency International

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Transparency Int'l

From embezzlement of funds or collusion that breaks conservation rules to land grabs for mining, farming or development, an increasing number of cases show how corruption undermines the effectiveness in climate adaptation and mitigation measures. It also contributes to tenure insecurity and human rights abuses and compromises trust in climate efforts, fuelling cynicism about the value of acting against climate change.

This makes it vital that participants don’t miss the opportunity COP28 presents to prioritise integrity measures in climate finance mechanisms. Investment in transparency and integrity frameworks will deliver ongoing climate benefits. It helps maximise impact and maintain confidence in climate action by preventing corruption and enabling stakeholders to hold governments accountable for their commitments.

Preventing undue influence over climate policy

At the international policy level, climate actors must ensure that financially powerful polluters such as fossil fuel companies no longer exert disproportionate influence over policymaking, often resulting in diluted climate policies.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, fossil fuel industries lobbied hard to win rescue funding and concessions for climate-damaging energy schemes, thanks to high-level relationships with EU and US decision-makers. Hundreds of fossil fuel representatives have also attended past COP gatherings without disclosing their relationship with their companies, allowing wealthy polluters the opportunity to influence international climate policies and commitments.

In a positive step, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now requires COP participants to disclose their affiliations – but more is needed. UNFCCC must establish an accountability framework, including clear rules of engagement and a conflict-of-interest policy to prevent undue influence within climate processes.


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Safeguarding delivery mechanisms

Comprehensive integrity frameworks are also essential for all climate funds and mechanisms delivering climate finance and projects. Integrity measures safeguard operations against corruption risks by requiring maximum transparency and multi-stakeholder participation in decision-making and financial flows – enabling stakeholders to hold developed countries accountable for their climate pledges.

To meet its goals, the Loss and Damage Fund, established at COP27 to assist nations most impacted by climate change, must be implemented promptly and effectively – yet the past year has seen delays by developed countries in delivering their commitments. Decisions on where and how the money should be distributed will involve multiple organisations and mechanisms, all needing integrity safeguards to prevent corruption and ensure stakeholders can demand accountability in delivering countries’ commitments. This means the fund must include a robust governance framework overseen by an independent integrity unit to ensure compliance.

As past cases have shown, large flows of climate finance are vulnerable to diversion without such safeguards. The Loss and Damage Fund’s governing structures must include a proactive information disclosure policy, ensuring transparency in all areas of decision-making and disbursing funds – from project selection and procurement procedures to financial reporting and audit findings. Decision-making must be participatory and include affected communities whose rights are directly at stake and who are often first to speak up against corruption in climate projects. In Peru, for example, indigenous communities have been persecuted for raising their voice against illegal land grabs by big business in collusion with local officials, resulting in severe human rights abuses and deforestation in favor of palm oil plantations.

Supporting whistleblowers is also essential to protect climate activists and finance. The Loss and Damage Fund must implement a comprehensive whistleblower protection policy, with effective, anonymous and safe reporting channels and redress mechanisms that ensure impartial investigation and appropriate sanctions and compensation.

To integrate effective integrity measures into climate projects, Transparency International supports multi-stakeholder initiatives including the Peer-to-Peer Learning Alliance on Climate Finance Integrity, enabling entities worldwide to share and consolidate experience in robust integrity policies and best practice.


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Building integrity into emerging climate approaches

As the transition to clean energy progresses and new climate approaches emerge, stakeholders must build transparent, inclusive decision-making into all global and regional climate investments. Initiatives such as the Great Green Wall should fully implement governance reforms that enhance affected communities’ participation, and governments must ensure that countries’ legal and policy frameworks and institutions around climate and land are protected against corruption so that they can deliver on their climate commitments.

Decision-makers must also ensure transparency and hold themselves accountable to public stakeholders over emerging geoengineering technologies designed to alleviate climate change. These include approaches such as reflecting sunlight back into space or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

While more climate finance is needed, especially for adaptation, actors must establish better metrics to measure climate outcomes. These will help stakeholders hold governments accountable for their promises, including ensuring that climate action receives dedicated funding and that governments don’t repackage “green” elements from other budgets – such as new hospitals with solar panelling – as climate spending.


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COP28: towards mainstreaming climate integrity?

We must prioritise integrity in climate measures and make this an enduring feature in all climate action. Unless actors place integrity centre stage, efforts to contain the climate crisis will be diluted, and COP28’s potential unfulfilled.

COP28 delegates and participants can create a multiplier effect in current and future climate investments by investing time and funding in comprehensive integrity measures. If initiatives have inbuilt integrity frameworks as the norm, they have the best chance of achieving their targets while reinforcing trust in the climate action process. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.


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