Cook Islands UN negotiator paid $700k by shipping industry lobby group

By Rich Collett-White

A negotiator representing the Cook Islands at the UN who has been criticized for blocking efforts to tackle global shipping emissions has been paid at least $700,000 since 2010 by an industry lobby group he helps run with his wife.

Campaigners said the revelation was a “slap in the face” for those suffering the effects of climate change in the South Pacific, where the archipelago is located.

The industry group’s General Manager Janet Strode, who is married to Captain Ian Finley, initially claimed he had had no involvement since the early 1990s, before admitting recent tax returns listing him as its Secretary were correct.

Finley, who is based in Dorset, UK, but has been the Cook Islands’ ambassador to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 2006, has been praised for his contributions to the agency by its Secretary-General.

But campaigners accuse him of consistently defending industry interests, having recently backed a proposal that could have exempted an estimated 85 percent of shipping from emissions limits.

A spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry denied there was any conflict of interest, criticizing what he called “highly regrettable attempts to discredit the Cook Islands and its Permanent Representative Finley” over its approach to shipping emissions.