The Climate Advisers Disclosures:
The Director of Norway’s forest initiative is a former Climate Advisers employee
He moved from the Ministry of Climate and the Environment (KLD) to the private consultancy firm where he had a relationship with Norwegian authorities. Now he is back in the Ministry and leads the section which has had a central role in awarding lucrative contracts to Climate Advisers.
Andreas Dahl-Jørgensen, Deputy Director General in the Ministry of Climate and the Environment, which leads the climate and forest initiative, has not wanted to be interviewed by Panorama about his role in Climate Advisers Inc. His name has cropped up a number of times during the editorial work on this case. He has been copied in on a large number of documents relating to the case the case over a period of many years. He is the Director of the technical section responsible for the case in KLD, and he has dealt with requests from our editorial staff about document access.
The facts of the case:
- Between 2019 and 2020, the US foundation Climate Advisers Trust (CAT) received NOK 70 million to contribute to the reduction of deforestation in low-income countries.
- The foundation bought services for more than NOK 20 million from companies owned by its CEO. Norad does not believe they were informed about the CEO’s ownership of one of the firms. Norad does not know how much of the grant was used for profit and salaries; they have not received the accounts from the companies.
- The founder and CEO of CAT received a salary of around NOK 12 million over three years from the non-profit foundation. He has previously charged a daily fee of over NOK 30,000.
- Norad believes it is difficult to point to any results from the projects.
- CAT rejects the accusations from Norad; nevertheless they have refunded Norad a total of NOK 1.6 million.
- The consulting firm Climate Advisers Inc and the CAT foundation have jointly been paid more than NOK 177 million from the Norwegian aid budget.
A glance at Dahl-Jørgensen’s CV tells us that he was working as an adviser in the forest initiative of KLD when Climate Advisers got their initial contracts with Norwegian authorities, and he definitely worked on agreements where the company was a sub-partner and recipient of some of the funds. He then moved to the United States and got a job in the consultancy firm where he became a director.
Read the main investigative story about Operation Sunlight here
There he worked on the new agreements which were funded by Norway, and also contributed to the company receiving new contracts with Norwegian authorities.
KLD emphasises to Panorama Nyheter that they regarded the consultancy services of Climate Advisers as extremely valuable, and that their efforts have had a global impact on the reduction of deforestation. However, the Ministry will not grant us an interview about the roles played by Dahl-Jørgensen.
In a written statement, KLD confirms that Dahl-Jørgensen of Climate Advisers acted as a consultant on the contract where the company was a sub-supplier in a consortium led by the Meridian Institute:
«During that period he played a central role in the negotiations leading to the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014, and also made significant contributions to the work on global approaches to the forest sector following REDD+ and the work on deforestation free supply chains.»
Following a period in India, Andreas Dahl-Jørgensen returned to Norway. He got a new job in KLD, initially as a technical director and later as the Director responsible for the Climate and Forest Initiative. Case documents tell us that Dahl-Jørgensen’s department has been a driving force for new contracts for Climate Advisers, while experts in Norad warned against this on several occasions during the past few years. Dahl-Jørgensen is not willing to be interviewed about the reason for this.
Recused, but not «impartial»
In the written statement, KLD states that when he started the job at the Ministry, Dahl-Jørgensen himself requested to be «recused from decisions about funding to CAI». This was accepted by KLD, but it was made clear that as a main rule he would not be able to choose his areas of work or responsibility.
No formal conflict of interest assessment was ever carried out.
Panorama has presented this issue to Professor Emeritus Jan Fridthjof Bernt, who is a specialist in public law with a deep knowledge of the impartiality regulations of the Public Administration Act.
Bernt is clear that there are no legal requirements for quarantine provisions in a transition from a consultancy position such as Dahl had in 2012, even if he went to work for a consultancy firm the Ministry had a contract with, and no rules were broken on his return to the Ministry.
But Professor Bernt has a gentle warning:
– The Ministry can obviously see that the head of department’s previous affiliation with this company at the very least may result in him being recused in cases connected with that, but they chose not to undertake a formal conflict of interest assessment. I regard this as legitimate and sensible, also in terms of the general reputation of this aid programme. However, this requires a consistent approach, both in terms of the cases in question and how these rules are applied.
Crossing a line
During Panorama Nyheter’s work on the case we have seen that Dahl-Jørgensen finds himself at the centre of a stream of case documents regarding his former employer. He received copies of the majority of documents. He has also dealt with our editorial request for access to the handling of Climate Advisers.
Jan Fridthjof Bernt believes a line has clearly been crossed.
– This is not acceptable. The regulations on impartiality in the Public Administration Act not only state who can make decisions in a case, but also set out who can play any part at all in the case handling, he states.
According to the Professor, if the Ministry believes it is correct to ‘recuse’ the Head of Department ‘from decisions regarding funding to’ this company, this ought also to include participation in the handling of all other aspects of the case.
Ragnhild Eikenes from the Ministry’s Communication Unit issued the following comment:
«KLD believes officials have acted in line with the assessment made when Dahl-Jørgensen took up the position. The fact that he was recused from decisions regarding funding did not mean that he should be excluded from all communication with Climate Advisers or from hearing anything about their work. This would neither be practically possible as the Deputy Director General/Director of the Climate and Forest Initiative, nor desirable from KLD’s point of view.»
Panorama has also asked KLD whether the Ministry has learnt anything from this case.
«No, not at this point. Our assessment is that both KLD and Dahl-Jørgensen have acted correctly, and we believe Dahl-Jørgensen’s role has been unproblematic throughout the period. The Ministry requested his contributions while he worked for CAI, and in 2017 employed him as technical adviser/Deputy Director General and later Director of the International Climate and Forest Initiative» , according to the written statement.