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Fighting corruption is fighting climate change!

Brice Böhmer |

Climate change and corruption are the two biggest challenges humanity faces today, and they are inextricably linked. Corruption is a threat to the success of the fight against climate change. The ways in which we tackle these two issues now will have deep consequences for us and future generations.

Transparency International is using its corruption risks mapping tools to assess the way corruption affects climate finance and action. We have found poor levels of transparency, participation and accountability in the way money set aside to tackle climate change is used. The good news is that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) could be part of the solution.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to be transparent about how and what they do to tackle climate change. This requires transparency on different factors including emission levels, climate change impact, adaptation and mitigation efforts, and financial support.

National and subnational authorities must be open and transparent about what they are doing with regard to climate change. They must be able to collect, process and share information so that policymakers, local communities and businesses can participate and make well-informed decisions on climate action. Access to and sharing of information is critical for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.

This is where OGP can help. It provides a platform that improves public participation in decision-making processes because it makes the data in a format that is easy to access and understand. In this way, OGP can help governments accelerate progress on their Paris Agreement contributions. There are already countries taking on OGP climate commitments. Take Kenya and Mexico, for example.

In its National Action Plan (NAP), Kenya commits to creating a transparent, participatory environment for the implementation of its recently enacted Climate Change Act of 2016. It will also open up its forestry datasets to the public and civil society, and promote the development and public use of accessible, data-driven applications and services.

Mexico has already made climate commitments in its last two NAPs. In its 2013-2014 plan, Mexico pledged to strengthen and open up its data collection on climate change in order to improve public policy. In its latest action plan, Mexico commits to publish information related to climate change impacts to reduce vulnerability and risks associated with climate variability. The Independent Reporting Mechanism evaluated this commitment as “substantially complete”, showing a promising start and providing a model for other countries to follow.

However, there is still plenty of room for improvement and innovation.

OGP countries should consider including transformational commitments in their NAPs that fight both climate change and corruption at the same time. Given that world leaders agreed to mobilize US $100 billion in climate finance by 2020, and the same amount each year thereafter, there are significant risks for corruption. This can and must be prevented.

Concrete examples of how transparency and open data can be incorporated into NAPs include tracking climate finance flows and making them public at global, regional and national levels. This ensures the money is monitored so that it gets to where it is needed most. Doing so could prevent another scenario like in Bangladesh, where homes at a cyclone shelter site were built without walls.

OGP governments can also use open contracting principles to monitor and prevent corruption risks in climate finance, particularly with renewable energy projects. Open data standards can open up contracting processes and increase information sharing. This will make it easier to understand and act on the needs of those most affected by climate change. Adding climate transparency into National Action Plans will not only help to meet Paris Agreement obligations more quickly, but also contribute towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals 13 (climate action) as well as 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions).

This is why Transparency International welcomes the newly formed Open Climate Working Group (OCWG), co-chaired by World Resources Institute (WRI) and France. Collaboration between the anti-corruption and climate communities and OGP is vital in the fight against climate change and guaranteeing the integrity of climate finance and action. This group will help bridge this gap, and aid in monitoring new climate commitments and promoting participation of the most affected communities. Raising the standards of accountability for national stakeholders, including communities directly suffering from climate change, will bring trust and credibility to the global process of fighting climate change in an ambitious and sustainable way.