Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that Monday marked the start of the COP21: a potentially-historic UN summit to tackle climate change.
For two weeks, world leaders and their teams of negotiators will flow in and out of a conference centre on the outskirts of Paris, France, to (hopefully) agree a (hopefully) legally-binding agreement among governments. NGOs, young people, experts and indigenous groups will be watching closely.
The aim is to keep the world’s ever-growing carbon emissions under control. The result, it is hoped, will be that global temperatures do not raise beyond the catastrophic so-called “two-degree threshold”, above which the impacts of climate change would become irreversible.
Since the publication of our Global Corruption Report on Climate Change, in 2011, we have stressed that the countries most vulnerable to climate change also tend to score poorly on our Corruption Perceptions Index.
No person and no country will escape climate change. But countries, and their populations, are not exposed to the same risks. One thing is certain, though: corruption makes climate change worse and threatens the solutions we need to respond.
We’re taking that message to Paris. Transparency International and the anti-corruption movement will be at the COP21, represented by activists and experts from around the world, including the countries, such as Bangladesh and the Maldives, which are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Here’s what we’ll say:
1. To tackle climate change, be transparent. Give citizens a voice
The hoped outcome of the COP21 – often already called ‘the Paris agreement’ in shorthand – will likely be a sprawling text covering myriad areas of global environmental regulation – and much more: the text will affect governments, businesses and citizens, and will raise many thorny issues of ‘implementation’.
This means that the public have a crucial role to play in the roll out of the Paris agreement on the ground. It’s essential that the public is able to participate in monitoring the world’s commitments to ‘mitigation’ (i.e. limiting carbon emissions) and ‘adaptation’ (protecting ourselves from the impacts of climate change already occurring).
We stress the importance of protecting a space for civil society to participate in monitoring the deal, globally and in countries, to make sure that each government’s pledges are checked and reported with accuracy.
2. ‘Climate finance’ could make or break the Paris agreement. Don’t let a corruption scandal ruin everything
Climate finance is money pledged by rich, industrial, carbon-emitting countries to help less-developed countries adapt to climate change (e.g. by adopting greener technologies) and resist climate impacts (e.g. protections from floods and typhoons).
Previous UN negotiations have agreed a target of US$100 billion a year for climate finance by 2020, much of which should flow through a new UN body called the Green Climate Fund.
A recent study by Adaptation Watch suggested that over 70 per cent of bilateral climate adaptation aid was ‘miscategorised or murky’. We need greater transparency to ensure that industrialised countries meet their financial commitments to support developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
We have also pointed out that many ‘climate vulnerable’ countries have poor records of good governance or stopping corruption. Corruption could derail the purpose of climate finance. Again, (as in point 1) the public needs a role in monitoring climate finance.
Some countries are setting up the means to monitor climate finance: in Mexico, we have helped set up an open data platform to keep track of climate finance flows
We have expressed a simple message: let’s make sure every dollar goes where it is needed, and let’s support civil society to gather evidence when money goes missing. (See this op-ed by the Executive Director of Transparency Maldives or a recent article in Newsweek.)
3. For the agreement to count, it needs to be accountable
We have monitored climate finance flows and climate projects in developing countries for several years. We have seen money go missing and projects fail because of corruption along the chain.
In the worst cases, climate projects have even caused abuses of fundamental human rights. For example, a ‘green’ dam project led to the murder of indigenous villagers in Guatemala whose livelihoods were threatened by it. In Uganda, corporations planted forests as carbon offsets to sell to oil companies - but to obtain the land, they murdered locals and torched their villages.
When things go wrong, people need ways to speak out about abuses, including corruption.
On 4 December, during the COP21, we’re holding a panel discussion with Carbon Market Watch and Both ENDS on ensuring those bodies that implement climate-related development projects are accountable to local populations and human rights laws.
The Paris agreement needs to include strong provisions in support of human rights and include the same kind of accountability and oversight measures as other international treaties.
In many ways, the hard work begins after the COP21. Transparency International is ready.
What you can do
- Join the discussion at #COP21 and let people know the 3 ways to stop corruption that could hurt #COP21 deal.
- Watch the video and find out how corruption is threatening our forests, a first line of defence against climate change.
- Interested in learning more about corruption and climate change? Sign up to one of our free online trainings that have been taken by more than 1,000 people to date.
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