by Judith Curry
Corruption and climate change? Most people don’t see a connection. This is likely because they aren’t in the habit of thinking of climate change as a multi-billion dollar global industry. And wherever money flows plentifully, corruption is quick on its heels. – Alice Harrison, Transparency International’s Climate Governance Program
Global Corruption Report: Climate Change
Space for Transparency is the official blog of Transparency International, the global coalition fighting against corruption. It provides an independent space to start a conversation on corruption, governance, transparency and accountability with authors from the anti-corruption movement on how to overcome corruption worldwide.
From the Executive Summary:
A robust system of climate governance – meaning the processes and relationships at the international, national, corporate and local levels to address the causes and effects of climate change – will be essential for ensuring that the enormous political, social and financial investments by both the public sector and the private sector made in climate change mitigation and adaptation are properly and equitably managed, so that responses to climate change are successful.
Good governance of the climate can enhance the process, making it more transparent, accessible and equitable for all. Climate change is not just a challenge to established approaches to governance, however; it also transcends established typologies of corruption. Corruption is defined by Transparency International as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
Entrusted power is not only the power a citizen confers to a public office holder. It is the power that future generations have vested in all of us, in our stewardship role for the planet. Likewise, abuse for private gain goes beyond corruption in the forms it so often takes – the misappropriation of funds, bribery in the awarding of contracts, and nepotism, all of which undermine good climate governance – and extends to new arenas. These include the distortion of scientific facts, the breach of principles of fair representation and false claims about the green credentials of consumer products – evidence of which is documented in this report. Such practices can be devastating in a policy arena in which uncertainty abounds and trust and cooperation are essential.
Why is corruption, in particular, a risk in addressing climate change? As the Global Corruption Report explores at length, the efforts to prevent and respond to climate change will have an enormous price tag. Where huge amounts of money flow through new and untested financial markets and mechanisms, there is always a risk of corruption. Some estimate total climate change investments in mitigation efforts alone at almost US$700 billion by 2020. Public investments of no less than US$250 billion per annum will eventually flow through new, relatively uncoordinated and untested channels. In addition, pressure already exists to ‘fast-track’ solutions, further enhancing the risk of corruption.
Corruption risks are also high because of the level of complexity, uncertainty and novelty that surrounds many climate issues. Essential concepts, such as what should count as a forest, or how to establish additionality (meaning whether projects could happen in any case without support), are still being debated. Rules for geoengineering, perhaps the most risky and consequential human intervention in our biosphere, are still largely absent. New tools to measure the environmental integrity of carbon offsets are relatively untested. Early evidence presented in this report suggests that there are many regulatory grey zones and loopholes that are at risk of being exploited by corrupt interests. Careful monitoring, quick learning and an active approach to closing entry points for corruption are essential to ensure that strong governanc enables the success of these new tools and instruments at this most critical stage.
An article at the Oil Drum provides the following summary:
If climate governance is not prepared for corruption, corruption will undermine climate governance. The GCR does not just raise the alarm, it provides a risk map of ways to make climate change measures more effective. Recommendations include:
- All conferences and meetings where climate change targets are set should be open to the people they impact and transparent at the international and local levels
- Experts monitoring and verifying projects must be independent and not paid from the budget of the project they are overseeing
- All climate measures should have strong, well-resourced oversight bodies
- Civil society must monitor government commitments to reduce emissions and be involved in development and oversight of national plans for mitigation and adaptation.
A more recent update comes from Transparency International’s blog, in an article Climate Change: Rising Waters, Rising Corruption?
Recognising the point at which corruption and climate change might intersect, Transparency International (TI) this year launched its Climate Governance Programme. This involves TI chapters in Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Kenya,Peru, the Maldives and Mexico, all of which suffer high levels of corruption and all bracing themselves for an uncertain climatic future. Like most of the countries at risk of climate disasters, the Dominican Republic is in the lower tier of the CPI, scoring three out of ten.
It is our hope that building robust checks and balances into the state’s climate finance architecture as it takes shape will set a precedent for good governance more generally, and eke out the corruption that has long made public funds mysteriously disappear.
At present this landscape involves a labyrinthine network of funds, government agencies, companies, finance institutions and contractors. It is complex, and relatively uncoordinated and untested, meaning money risks vanishing through blind spots or loopholes, decisions might be ill-informed, processes poorly managed and results substandard or misrepresented. Perversely, this could put populations and the natural environment at even more risk of climate extremes than they’d otherwise be.
Visibility will help ward against this. At TI we want more open policy, procedures and finance, we want public scrutiny and consultation, and accountable decision making. As yet, many of the people and institutions governing our climate show little sign of this.
Out of Africa
These challenges are illustrated by this article about Africa: Africa to launch own fund to manage climate cash.
African leaders plan to launch a fund this year to help the continent access and manage its share of money from the global U.N. Green Climate Fund, a U.N. official said.
Climate negotiators have yet to establish the Green Climate Fund, which the United Nations wants to be able to deliver $100 billion a year by 2020. The idea of the fund was one of the few agreements to come out stalled climate talks in 2009.
The resources will help poor countries brace for the effects of climate change while also investing in projects that mitigate it, such as renewable energy and protecting forests.
The global cost of combating and adapting to climate change is estimated at $46 trillion up to 2050, or $1 trillion a year.
Ibrahima Dia, a senior U.N. and African Union official involved in the talks, said the African Development Bank would establish and manage the fund, which is needed as African states individually lack the knowledge and technology to secure their share of global climate funds.
The fund will be launched at COP17, the next round of climate change talks in South Africa in November. African leaders have been trying to firm up a united position for the continent, which experts say will be one of the most affected by climate change because of its susceptibility to drought.
“(The message is) we go united to COP17, we don’t scale down, and we put an emphasis on adaptation,” Dia told Reuters on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea, where leaders discussed climate change amongst other issues such as Libya’s conflict.
Whereas money is slow to materialize in the UN Funds, the World Bank does have funds and is spending them as part of their Climate Adaptation Program. It seems that most of these funds are in the form of loans, although there are some grants. This article from Bangladesh raises additional issues: Why Bangladesh doesn’t want climate adaptation loans.
…Offering Bangladesh climate loans through the World Bank is a form of trickery that will push us deeper into poverty, with no means of escape. Loans for climate adaptation are supposed to help countries cope with the worst impacts of global warming. They are not intended to fund income-generating projects, so no new money will be created to repay them.
Rezal Karim Choudhury in the Poverty Matters blog at the Guardian (UK) has a “no! in thunder” for the World Bank: This week in Cape Town, the World Bank will decide whether to approve new climate adaptation loans for five countries. In Bangladesh and around the world, campaigners are resisting these loans and urging their governments not to accept new debt for climate change. More than 50 organisations from countries due to receive the loans recently signed a statement opposing the concept of climate loans, which was initially invented by the UK.
The World Bank cannot be trusted to deliver climate finance. Instead, we need the UK to help us adapt to climate change through democratic and representative institutions, like the UN Adaptation Fund. The UK has so far failed to put a single penny into this fund. And by pouring money into the World Bank’s climate investment funds, it is undermining the UN fund…
Corruption Perception Index
TI also publishes a Corruption Perception Index.
This topic has been sitting in my ‘draft’ file for quite awhile. Two events this past week motivate my focusing on this topic. The first was a discussion with a colleague about concerns of cherry picking (or possibly altering) of climate impacts data from developing countries. The second was the IPCC announcement that membership of the IPCC Bureau will have geographic quotas. From the New Scientist article:
The IPCC is an intergovernmental body, but its reports are written by scientists. In the past these have been chosen largely on their scientific merit, but from now on the 30-person IPCC bureau – which oversees all publications – will have geographical quotas. For instance Africa will have five members and North America four. In addition, each of its three working groups must now include at least one person from every continent in their eight-person bureaux.
Richard Klein, an IPCC stalwart from the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, told New Scientist this was mostly a formalisation of current practices. “Membership has always been based on expertise, geographical balance and gender.” But Krug said it represented a breakthrough for involvement of developing-world scientists.