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World leaders at COP26: Urgently shift perspectives to prevent corruption from crippling climate action

As the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 prepares to get underway in Glasgow, Transparency International is urging world leaders to bolster transparency, accountability and integrity to ensure effective action against climate crisis.

As part of the annual COP discussions, countries are being asked to present ambitious emission reduction strategies, adapt to protect our natural world, mobilise private and public finance and work out a rulebook to make it all happen. Meaningful progress in these areas, however, is being hampered by different forms of corruption, from undue influence to embezzlement. If not addressed directly, it will continue to undermine climate action until this crucial momentum is lost, warns Transparency International.

Corruption remains a major barrier to the success of climate adaptation and mitigation measures, which finds fertile ground in such vast sums of money – in 2018 alone, climate finance totalled US$546 billion globally.

Positive outcomes from COP25 have been scant, and a lot more needs to be done this year. Companies known to undermine climate action, many of whom are major producers of greenhouse gasses, are still allowed to exert disproportionate influence through lobbying, both inside and outside of COP26. Developed countries are still not carrying their fair share of climate finance. And the establishment of carbon markets still lacks anti-corruption mechanisms.

Transparency International is joining with the international community and civil society to make sure COP26 doesn’t end with just empty promises. Along with its UK chapter, in a letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma, Transparency International recently cautioned that even the perception of conflicts of interest are enough to undermine public confidence and threaten progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.

Climate crisis is also a governance challenge, but the need for anti-corruption safeguards has so far been largely absent from climate talks. We urgently need to shift perspectives and accelerate efforts towards transparency, accountability and integrity to ensure effective action against climate crisis.

Transparency International calls on COP26 leaders to:

  • ensure advanced economies act in an accountable manner and report better on the delivery of the US$100 billion per year pledge from the Copenhagen Accord
  • improve the Paris Agreement’s ‘enhanced transparency framework’ to include a public register of declarations by government representatives and private-sector efforts to lobby or influence national governments to delay and weaken climate policy
  • initiate a new transparent process for public submissions from UNFCCC Parties and Stakeholders on (i) compulsory declaration of interests; (ii) lobbying public register; and (iii) a system for the management of conflicts of interest, and to hold a second in-session workshop at COP27
  • ensure Article 6 of the Paris Agreement guarantees integrity in carbon markets by including a robust integrated grievance redress mechanism, as well as environmental and social safeguards

Rueben Lifuka, Vice Chair of Transparency International, said:

It is time to act against corruption and the climate crisis, because we can’t tackle one without the other. Our minds do not often make the link between climate and corruption, but unfortunately the two are deeply interlinked. For action against climate change to be effective, the international community urgently needs to shift perspectives and step up efforts towards transparency, accountability and integrity. We must make good governance the cornerstone of the fight against climate change. It might not be too late to solve the climate crisis. But it will only be possible if we safeguard climate funds from corruption and make sure global climate policy serves the interests of all people and the planet, not just a few private concerns.”

“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.”

Brice Böhmer, Climate and Environment Lead at Transparency International, said:

“The climate funding landscape is complex and fragmentary, which complicates efforts to track financial flows and identify who should be held accountable for decisions. As a result, conflicts of interest, bribery, nepotism and embezzlement endanger investment and funding initiatives globally – from the United States and Europe to the global South.

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