OAG reviews the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative

On Tuesday, 15 May, the Office of the Auditor General published a report from its management audit of the Climate and Forest Initiative - NICFI. –The report provides several useful insights and reminders, and we will follow up on the suggested recommendations in order to further improve our efforts. However, we disagree with some of the key conclusions, said Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen.

Following up recommendations

–It is always useful to have the OAG's view on the management of money granted by the parliament Stortinget, said Ola Elvestuen. -The remarks from OAG point to issues we are already aware of and are closely following up on. We will continue our efforts to ensure permanent conservation of rainforest, we will strive to be even better at following up on results and lessons learnt, and we will ensure active follow-up relating to the risk for financial fraud.

While Elvestuen acknowledges and will follow up on recommendations, he believes that parts of the OAG analysis is incomplete, and that it draws too widely on conclusions from a limited audit.

 

Read the official response from the Minister of Climate and Environment here (Unofficial translation)

 

–The report only examines parts of the NICFI. Thus, several very important results are overlooked, said Elvestuen. The main challenge, a global mobilization to prevent climate change, cannot be solved with Norwegian money alone. We have reason to be content about what Norway together with our partners have achieved in this area. This is evident through a number of extensive international evaluations of NICFI.

However, the minister pointed out that he will ensure a close follow up of NICFI in the future.

–I want to further our efforts to achieve lasting emissions reductions from deforestation through climate negotiations and bilateral cooperation. I also want to make sure that we strengthen efforts on international forest crime. We will continue to work actively with global business to transform the global agricultural economy in a direction where forests are protected and restored at massive scale. This remains essential in order to reach the Paris climate goals and the UN SDGs.

–Based on the OAG's recommendation, I also want to continue to strengthen the measuring, reporting and verification of results in climate and forestry, said Ola Elvestuen.

Minister disagrees with criticism

The Ministry of Climate and Environment disagree with the OAG's review of how KLD has handled the risk of fraud and corruption connected to disbursements of funds from NICFI. The Ministry strongly disagrees with the OAG's conclusion that the administration has not complied with its own guidelines to prevent abuse of Norwegian funds.

–We have good systems in place to ensure that Norwegian money transactions are channeled appropriately and used as intended, said Elvestuen. However, it is obvious that the risk of fraud and corruption is far greater for this type of international aid management, than for example, national subsidy management.

Elvestuen points out that NICFI only collaborates with partners that can demonstrate the necessary expertise and organization needed to implement the projects they have applied for. Both the receiving organization and the payments are monitored closely by both NICFI and Norad, said the minister.

We have zero tolerance for corruption. As a whole, the number of corruption cases has been limited seen in the light that over 20 billion NOK has been disbursed to date. This demonstrates that both NICFI, the Ministry of Climate- and Environment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad have taken this seriously

He emphasizes that NICFI will use the OAG's recommendations to ensure that efforts for detection and follow-up of risk in the Climate and Forest Initiative will be even further improved.

Important results not considered

Elvestuen believes that several key results of the forest initiative have not been considered in the OAG-report.

–Norway has established ambitious partnerships with the world's most important rainforest countries. The work is challenging, and political priorities change over time. However, several partnerships have shown impressive progress. Brazil has reduced emissions corresponding to 70 years of Norwegian emissions, and we feel that the OAG's rendering of this story is incomplete. Important advances in Indonesia and Colombia have also not been assessed by the Office of the Auditor General.

The minister also points to Norway's leading role in working with hundreds of the world's largest multinational companies with an aim to remove all deforestation from their production chains. Trade in commodities such as soy, meat, palm oil and pulp accounts for more than half of deforestation globally. Now companies like Unilever, Nestlé and Walmart are active partners in the fight against deforestation.

Furthermore, Elvestuen emphasizes that NICFI has helped strengthen the voice of Indigenous people and supporting their land rights as well as advancing global efforts to combat illegal, organized deforestation.

–Norway has invested heavily in establishing a comprehensive global satellite monitoring of the world's forests. Through Global Forest Watch, anyone can see where deforestation takes place. NICFI  supports NGO's around the world who use these data and hold companies and governments accountable. This is a prerequisite for success in stopping illegal deforestation, said Elvestuen.

 In 2015 REDD+ - reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation - became an integrated part of the Paris agreement.  Norway had a key role in this process. Several rainforest countries now commit themselves to preserving forests. 

–Deforestation is still far too high.  If the world does not turn that trend, we will not reach the climate goals in the Paris agreement nor the UN's sustainability goals. I do of course wish the world had achieved better results to date.  However, international evaluation reports have demonstrated that we have achieved important results, and some of those – such as the emissions reductions in Brazil – are objectively verifiable. Without Norway's efforts, the situation for the world's rainforests would have been even worse, said Ola Elvestuen, Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment.

 

Read the whole report from the OAG here (in Norwegian only)