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Corruption and climate finance

Implications for climate change interventions

With vast sums being invested in interventions to mitigate climate change and help adapt to its consequences, corruption within climate finance threatens the global achievement of these goals. The countries receiving the most finance present a higher risk for corrupt practices. Developing appropriate and effective anti-corruption tools and strategies can ensure climate finance is optimised for impact and success, and that such interventions are not undermined.

15 November 2020
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Corruption and climate finance

Main points

  • Corruption in climate finance negatively impacts climate change intervention, undermining mitigation efforts to reduce emissions and decreasing the quality of adaptation infrastructure – in both cases, donors and other funders suffer the loss or misuse of funds.
  • The top recipients of climate finance are among the riskiest places in the world for corruption; however, they receive 41.9% of all climate related overseas development assistance.
  • There has been some success with anti-corruption controls around overseas development assistance. However, vast sums of climate finance is routed outside typical, well controlled channels. Anti-corruption controls on climate finance have to be established, coordinated, and evaluated.
  • Climate finance has to be optimised for impact and effectiveness. Strategies are needed to ensure climate finance is not stolen, wasted, or directed to suboptimal activities.
  • Anti-corruption tools give climate change practitioners a better chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Although a number of climate change interventions already incorporate such tools, some mechanisms attract more investment than others.
  • The focus of anti-corruption efforts needs to be on renewable energy, low-carbon transport, and energy efficiency. Urgent research is required into how corruption undermines these sectors’ climate goals, and how it can be prevented.
  • Analyses of the success or failure of climate change interventions rarely focus on governance issues. Lack of research means that there remains insufficient mapping of corruption risks, as well as undeveloped, untested and poorly evaluated anti-corruption tools.

Cite this publication

Nest, M.; Mullard, S.; Wathne, C.; (2020) Corruption and climate finance. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Brief 2020:14)

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About the authors

Michael Nest

Michael Nest has worked on anti-corruption issues for 15 years, including research and policy development and as a practitioner. He was a Senior Corruption Prevention Officer at the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, and has undertaken consultancies for Transparency International, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), US Agency for International Development (USAID), East Timor’s Anti-Corruption Commission, and Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency. He has a PhD in Politics from New York University, USA.

Saul Mullard is a senior adviser at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre and a civil society specialist with a background in historical sociology, development studies, and South Asian studies. His research interests include the relationship between corruption and climate change and the role of local communities and indigenous peoples in addressing corruption and environmental protection. Mullard holds a doctorate and master’s in South and Inner Asian Studies from the University of Oxford, as well as a BA in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.

Cecilie Wathne

Cecilie Wathne led U4’s thematic work on Measurement and Evaluation from 2018 to 2020. She has been the head of planning, monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning at the Norwegian NGO Strømme Foundation. She has also worked as a researcher at the Overseas Development Institute on issues related to aid effectiveness and accountability. Wathne holds an MSc in Economics for Development from the University of Oxford and a BSc in Economics, a BA in Political Science and a Certificate in Quantitative Methods from the University of Washington. She has undertaken fieldwork in over a dozen countries in Asia and Africa.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Karsten Würth