Wednesday, August 5, 2020
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Strong Institutions Are Essential for Effective Climate Action

Climate action and sustainable development need strong and functioning institutions in order to be effective, successful and sustainable. And institutions need a coordinated approach to tackling corruption to prevent climate action from being undermined.

This was the core message of an event on “Climate Change and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, part of an online course The Paris Agreement on Climate Change as a Development Agenda organized by UN Climate Change and the UN System Staff College with support from the German Government.

Speaking about the linkages between climate change and peace, justice and strong institutions, Janine Felson, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Belize to the United Nations said:

“We need to look more closely at how we are going to achieve the type of climate ambition that makes use of all the types of support that are needed, whilst recognizing the importance of strong institutions at the national level in securing peace and sustainable development. This requires enlightened self-interest. What we do for the greater common good is good for ourselves.”.

At the virtual event Brice Böhmer, Climate Integrity Lead at Transparency International, pointed out that climate is not a sector but that it involves key sectors that are the most corrupt according to research – energy, water, forestry, waste and construction. These sectors incur additional costs of at least 20 per cent because of corruption.

 “Most of the countries with the highest level of corruption are countries in need of climate finance – and this should not prevent them from receiving more. Bribery, nepotism and embezzlement are the most common issues at the execution stage of projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change,” he said.

study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime shows that corruption is the most important enabling factor behind illegal wildlife and timber trade. And a joint assessment by the UN Environment Programme and INTERPOL highlights the fact that that forestry crimes, from unregulated or illegal burning of charcoal to large-scale corporate crimes concerning timber, paper and pulp and involving largescale deforestation, have major bearings on global greenhouse gas emissions, water reserves, desertification and rainfall.

There are specific risks along the different climate change project stages. For example, undue lobbying and conflict of interest are more of a risk at the policy development and project approval stage.

At the last stage of implementation, giving licenses or purchase orders for goods and services to entities or individuals without any specific expertise on climate happens too often. This is not only about the money being lost but also having an additional impact on the climate and vulnerable groups that should have benefited from the action – emissions that were supposed to be reduced or not emitted are actually happening.

Four Approaches to Addressing Climate Corruption

According to Brice Böhmer, there are four main approaches to address climate corruption: transparency and consultations; closing the implementation gap for enforcement; accountability and complaints mechanisms; and strong institutions and oversight bodies.

“In the context of strong institutions and oversight, one aspect that is often missing and can make a big difference is having anti-corruption agencies involved in the environmental sectors” he said.

One problem is that people working in the anti-corruption agencies do not necessarily consider it part of their mandate to look after the environmental issues and climate change projects or policies, because they feel they miss the expertise.

Similarly, on the other side the environmental community would not be that confident to look at the governance issues.

“We really need to build this bridge to connect these two communities so that they work together,” said Transparency International’s Brice Böhmer.

Apart from having strong oversight institutions and national legislative frameworks as well as anti-corruption safeguards in climate institutions, the media can also play a very important role. Investigative journalism can put a light on these governance issues: if environmental defenders and whistleblowers can be protected when they raise their voices, it can make a difference for people and the planet.

Read original release here.

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