CoST’s OGP summit event highlighted that climate finance is a collective action

As the climate crisis escalates, the demand for more resilient and sustainable infrastructure projects will continue to increase. Governments will need to reserve more budgets for climate adaptation and mitigation, and with increased funding, there comes the risks of corruption. We are going to see an increase in investments into more complex projects that take years to implement, or deeply intensive technical projects that require detailed technical capacity to deliver. Therefore, establishment of control and scrutiny should automatically be incorporated in such processes from the outset.

Adoption of collective action initiatives to prevent corruption in climate finance is paramount to ensure value for money from investments as well as ensuring sustainability of the investments, which is even more important in the delivery of resilient infrastructure. In turn, both of these help with mitigating the climate crisis and saving lives.

The Basel Institute of Collective Action defines Collective Action as a “multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve shared goals”. Collective action allows membership and belonging, increases influence, and a shared connection to address issues around sharing common resources. CoST International was at the most recent Open Government Partnership Summit in Tallinn, Estonia. In this article, we share lessons, experiences, ideas and views from the summit including at our own side event which focused on opening up climate finance infrastructure to public scrutiny.

Climate finance infrastructure is defined by the Global Infrastructure Hub as finance that aims to support the public or private sectors to address climate change through mitigation or adaptation. Climate finance can be applied to finance projects, programmes, or regulatory changes. It includes mitigation such as clean energy projects such as wind or solar, or adaptation projects such as sea walls that deal with coastal inundation or dams that deal with large scale flooding.

More than 80% of the individual Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are invested into the infrastructure sector. Only approximately 25% of the total goes towards Africa and only 8% goes to low-income countries, even though both are highly vulnerable to climate change. Infrastructure development causes up to 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, climate finance is expected to be scaled up in the coming years both for adaptation and mitigation purposes.

In CoST’s side event on opening up climate finance to public scrutiny we discussed how climate finance transparency would address potential corruption risks in the delivery of sustainable infrastructure. As the climate crisis becomes more evident, the willingness to increase and disburse funding will grow. This exacerbates already high corruption risks in the infrastructure sector.  Investments in climate change projects are often major, complex projects that can take years to implement. This is a complex area to navigate with numerous actors through a collective action, lines of accountability and involving many different layers. Therefore, multi-stakeholder approaches and technology remain critical in addressing such constraints. Anti-corruption efforts in climate finance infrastructure is not a new area and can benefit from UNCAC processes and the tools and standards already developed by specialised organizations like CoST in this area can help detect any potential risks. Collaboration with Supreme Audit Institutions was also brought up as a potential approach during the conversations.

The infrastructure sector has for long been marred with irregularities associated with lack of data efficiency, and limited transparency, weak accountability mechanisms and lack of stakeholder participation, among others. With these red flags, it is unlikely that, pro-poor policies aimed at delivering sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure would be realized, if conscious decisions are not taken to salvage/mitigate the unexpected climate change occurrences. Thus, the role of civil society, as well as the active disclosure of data, is vital. Discussions from our side event reflected on the critical role of civil society in scrutinizing investment decisions and project implementation and in promoting “green accountability”. the Speakers, such as René El Saman, GIZ Adviser and Saad Filali Meknassi, Senior Social Accountability Specialist, GPSA, also highlighted the role of citizen-led advocacy and monitoring. There were some lessons from civil society engagement in Tajikistan and CoST member, Uganda, where a lot of adaptive learning was achieved in areas such as open contracting, access to information and community level engagement in holding duty bearers to account for example in the water sector. United Nations Convention Against Corruption Article 13 requires that governments take appropriate measures to involve civil society in fighting corruption, which underlines the connection to this convention and the Paris agreement also contains a civil society framework. Actions are needed everywhere and there is a need to forge stronger partnerships.

At the summit, conversations around the relevance of collective action to address barriers to climate finance in infrastructure transparency stood out. Political will remains pertinent among countries, in planning climate resilient infrastructure as well as effectively procuring and ensuring their delivery. Questions, such as whether governments have grown the capacity and technical evidence to plan for climate finance investments remain pressing issues to validate across countries. Transparency should be emphasised right from the planning phases of projects, to help detect concerns/issues that would result into bigger problems at later stages of project delivery.

Discussants pointed out the fact that climate finance infrastructure sounds a new topic, but has been here for quite some time, and there have been lessons taken from some parts of the world. It was therefore agreed that there is need to raise awareness on climate finance infrastructure, and the need to exert pressure on governments and development partners to open up on how they are investing in climate finance infrastructure. From the participants, it was evident that there was a lacuna on how much stakeholders know about the subject matter, and how they relate to the key issues around climate finance. There is a general need to understand what climate finance infrastructure related data should be published and that such data should be comparable, uniform, complete and consistent enabling stakeholders to effectively engage with and influence transparency and accountability

Considerable examples on how countries lack capacity and tools to comprehend data were noted from Brazil and in Mexico where data on climate finance is a rare occurrence. To mitigate the lack of data and secure solutions to sectoral wastage resulting from climate change, CoST is working with GIZ and the World Bank in reviewing the Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS) and the Infrastructure Data Standard (IDS) to include operation, maintenance and decommissioning of assets, and climate finance mitigation, adaptation and sustainable infrastructure procurement.

In conclusion, governments remain duty bound to publish data and create safe engagement spaces for civil society, the private sector and citizens to collectively engage on climate finance infrastructure transparency, and not being seen as “opposition” in promoting green accountability. Everyone worldwide risks feeling the effects of climate change, from hotter days to sudden floods so stakeholders must strengthen their advocacy efforts for fiscal openness, transparency, inclusion of vulnerable communities, and the private sector in open government.