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COP26: Address unchecked conflicts of interest that undermine climate action

Slow progress in addressing conflicts of interest leaves the world’s biggest climate conference vulnerable to undue influence and risks undermining its legitimacy, Transparency International warned today.

Ahead of the annual climate summit in Glasgow, the global anti-corruption coalition is calling on the UK to show leadership and use its COP26 Presidency to introduce measures that would help address conflicts of interest in climate policy.

In a letter to Alok Sharma, the COP26 President, Transparency International and its UK chapter caution that even the perception of conflicts of interest are enough to undermine public confidence and threaten progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.

Read the letter

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) underpins the UN’s annual COP summit but has weak safeguards to prevent private interests from wielding disproportionate influence.

For years, producers of greenhouse gasses have been spending billions of dollars lobbying against climate action, diluting climate policy and preventing meaningful inroads being made. The five biggest oil companies – British Petroleum, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total – reportedly spent a combined US$200 million annually (approx.) on lobbying to ‘“control, delay or block” climate policy in the four years after the 2016 Paris Agreement.

Just this week, leaked documents revealed how some wealthy nations are working behind the scenes to slow down efforts to address climate change. Further concerns about conflicts of interest have been raised in the run-up to COP26, with the UK Government hiring a firm that advises the fossil fuel industry to help organise the summit. UK ministers also reportedly held a series of private meetings with major fossil fuel companies that were eager to be part of the climate talks.

Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, said:

“The climate crisis is arguably the biggest global challenge we have ever faced. Conflicts of interest – whether real or perceived – undermine climate action, by causing a loss of both confidence and momentum in the process towards achieving the Paris Agreement's goals. We have already seen the impact of this. Undue influence and illicit lobbying from the industry even extends to the very meetings where progress on climate crisis is meant to be discussed. It is clear there is an urgent need for processes to prevent private interests from undermining the common good.”

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