### Abstract

This is the first of two papers where we address and partially confirm a conjecture of Deser and Schwimmer, originally postulated in high energy physics. The objects of study are scalar Riemannian quantities constructed out of the curvature and its covariant derivatives, whose integrals over compact manifolds are invariant under conformal changes of the underlying metric. Our main conclusion is that each such quantity that locally depends only on the curvature tensor (without covariant derivatives) can be written as a linear combination of the Chern-Gauss-Bonnet integrand and a scalar conformal invariant.