Climbing the steps in Hotel Meliá’s lobby, I was faced with two options. To my right, double doors opened onto a large conference room abuzz with men in suits. ‘Opportunities and Incentives for Hydrocarbon Exploration in Central America and the Caribbean’ read the sign on the door. To my left, Transparency International’s (TI) Dominican chapter, Participación Ciudadana, was poised to launch TI’s Global Corruption Report: Climate Change.
Luckily much of the world is waking up to the dubious ethics of continued fossil fuel hunting. But beyond that much remains to be done to ensure sustainability and integrity in climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. How wisely are decisions being made, how is money being spent, who is being consulted and who is benefitting?
Anyone interested in finding out should read the latest Global Corruption Report; a collection of short essays by more than 50 leading experts, drawn from a broad range of disciplines.
At the publication’s Santo Domingo launch, Lisa Elges, Programme Manager of TI’s Climate Governance Integrity Programme, addressed an audience of some 200 people. She picked out a few of the report’s highlights. The first pointed to the potential for corrupt yet legal trading on international carbon markets.
Following its re-emergence from Czechoslovakia, Slovakia shut down the bulk of its heavy polluting industry. Between 2003 and 2007 the country’s emissions were 32 per cent below its 1990 Kyoto Protocol target, meaning it amassed a surplus of ‘unused’ emission permits.
In 2008 the Slovak government sold 15 million tonnes of those permits to Interblue Group, a Washington-based carbon credit broker, reportedly for half the market price. Interblue subsequently resold the credits for a profit of at least €45 million. It then divested, allegedly re-merging as Interblue Group Europe. The carbon credits are no longer traceable by law, but represent an estimated €70-75 million in lost revenue, and immeasurable climate damage.
A second highlight: one chapter envisages a future in which millions of people are on the move, fleeing extreme weather, natural disasters, or the situations of inequality, crime or conflict that will blossom in their wake.
History shows us that migrants are extremely susceptible to corruption. Following severe flooding in Bangladesh in 2007, hordes of men left for India, lured by the promise of temporary work. There they became victims of torture and slavery, while their families were left destitute, vulnerable to human trafficking and forced labour.
In Kenya, around 500,000 people fled their homes as a result of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. It is estimated that of the 2 billion Kenyan shillings (approximately US $28 million) allocated to these internally displaced people, as much as 500 million shillings was embezzled. Meanwhile, 350,000 Kenyans were left living in makeshift camps.
As TI Bangladesh Executive Director Iftekhar Zaman pointed out in Santo Domingo, climate change must be tackled, but it can only be tackled as effectively as corruption can be controlled.
The Global Corruption Report comes as a warning signal to close legal loopholes, track money flows, crack down on corporate influence peddling and acknowledge the needs and views of affected communities. It is not without hope. Climate policy is still in its infancy. As new laws, systems and processes take shape, we should seize this opportunity to transform the way that we do ‘business as usual’.
Here is Carlos Pimentel, Head of Programmes at Participación Ciudadana, discussing (in Spanish) the importance of climate governance issues in the Dominican Republic.