Anti-Corruption Summit: A Win For The Environment?

30 May 2016   lucyejwoods

An official statement from the UK government’s Anti-corruption Summit held in London this week states: “tackling corruption is vital” for “protecting the environment for future generations.”

The summit brings corruption to the forefront of public debate, highlighting corruption as yet another aspect of the relationship between climate change and poverty. “If we fail on climate change, we fail on poverty,” climate change economist, Nicholas Stern said last year. While at the summit, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron said corruption is “the cancer at the heart” of so many of the world’s problems – including climate change.

Nigeria, a country ranked high in corruption, said in its summit statement that new transparency standards are to be applied to its oil sector and the sale of oil, as well as investment in the power sector.

Columbian President, Juan Manuel Santos said “illegal mining” (an urgent environmental problem) is the sibling of corruption.

Although Pakistan did not attend the summit, previously, former ministers have said the country’s severe energy crises has corruption at its pinnacle.

A similar relationship between corruption and environmental concerns is found in the Philippines – who did not attend the summit -where high pollutant diesel fuel operators bribe officials for subsidy favour.

The Russian government has also been accused of corruption in relation to its environmental policies. Russia attended the summit, and stated its intentions to take a stance against corruption.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry attended the summit and compared corruption to extremism – which is again, linked to tackling climate change.

Caliph Ahmad, leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community earlier this year linked fossil fuels and corruption to terrorism, questioning the trade of fossil fuels to extremist, so-called Islamic groups:

“It is well known that different groups and even governments are purchasing oil from Daesh [ISIS]. Why has this trade not been stopped? Why have comprehensible sanctions not been proposed to prevent such deeds?”

Earlier this year, oil officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Nigeria, Angola and the Republic of Congo all had their financial integrity questioned as their names appeared in the offshore account data leak, the Panama Papers. Environmental degradation and corruption consistently rub shoulders.

Even in renewable energy, rogue traders, or “solar cowboys”, tainted, and set back the up-take of vital technologies, essential for transitioning away from run away climate change.

Cameron closed the summit by saying new tax information standards have led to a £50 billion increase in tax revenue. With governments committing money to tackle climate change at the COP21 Paris meeting last year, and estimates in the tens of trillions of US dollars required to combat climate change, (assuming leaders that are proactive on climate change are elected) £50 billion in tax revenues is not a bad start.

As a result of the anti-corruption summit, six countries are to enforce a public company ownership register: Britain, Afghanistan, Kenya, France, the Netherlands and Nigeria – with many more countries implementing company ownership registers that can be shared between governments, the Commonwealth is to open a new office for civil and criminal justice reform, specifically to promote sustainable development.

The European Commission stated it will now work with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) “to enhance company disclosure” on payments to governments for the sale of oil, gas, minerals, timber and logging concessions.

The UK government also tied its anti-corruption agenda to the 17 United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) – which explicitly states action on climate change, and measures towards sustainability as the purpose of the goals.

This international push towards financial transparency, makes tax avoidance for large mining, fossil fuel and energy companies difficult. Tax evasion by unscrupulous individuals is harder to commit, and easier to prosecute. This is hopeful for proactive governments, especially in developing countries that are most affected by climate change, to be able to reclaim tax revenue, and invest it in tangible action on climate change.


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