Climate Change

06 Jan 2024

Azerbaijan Minister and State Oil Company Veteran to Lead COP29 Climate Talks

06 Jan 2024  by reuters   

Azerbaijan's Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev speaks during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 11, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
The government of Azerbaijan has appointed its ecology and natural resources minister Mukhtar Babayev as the president of the United Nations COP29 climate talks to be held in Baku in November.

The appointment was announced by the COP28 United Arab Emirates presidency in a post on the social media platform X.

Before taking office in 2018, Babayev spent 24 years at Azerbaijan's state-owned oil and gas company Socar, according to his LinkedIn profile, during which time he also briefly served as the company's vice-president for ecology.

The selection of Babayev continues the contentious trend of those with deep ties to the oil and gas industry helming U.N. climate talks. Last year's summit held in Dubai was presided over by Sultan Al Jaber, the current chief of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

An investigation by the BBC and the Centre for Climate Reporting revealed in November that the UAE planned to discuss possible natural gas and other commercial deals ahead of the summit.

Azerbaijan is also a large exporter of natural gas. In a meeting with reporters last month attended by Reuters, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, touted the country's gas potential.

The country has an estimated 2.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas reserves, according to the 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and it aims to double its gas exports to Europe by 2027.

The COP28 Presidency's tweet also noted that Azerbaijan's 36-year-old deputy foreign minister Yalchin Rafiyev would serve as lead negotiator of this year's climate summit.

Scientists expressed disappointment that once again individuals with ties to the oil industry would be able to exert influence on the climate negotiations.

"It is time to demand a thorough overhaul of the entire COP process and leadership structure," said University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann. "There is too much at stake to allow for the continuation of this pattern of corruption."


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