Mukhtar Babayev, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, has been named as president-designate of the COP29 climate conference.
Babayev previously headed Azerbaijan’s state oil company, SOCAR, before being appointed minister in 2018. He will be the second consecutive oil executive to head a COP conference: Last year’s conference was controversially chaired by the United Arab Emirate’s Sultan al-Jaber, the head of state oil company ADNOC.
Oil exec al-Jaber eventually won over some skeptical environmentalists
Environmentalists saw Sultan al-Jaber as a “ridiculous” choice for the COP presidency, pointing to him having a clear conflict of interest as someone who ran the UAE’s national oil company. However, he ultimately oversaw a breakthrough global agreement at the summit to transition away from fossil fuels, converting some skeptics into fans. “A diplomatically astute fossil-fuel executive, counterintuitively, may have been exactly what COP needed to finally directly address the primary causes of climate change,” Semafor’s Tim McDonnell wrote in December. The UAE is more economically diversified than other Gulf nations, and al-Jaber also heads a renewable energy firm. “It’s easy to imagine him making a case behind closed doors to these peers in support of the transition that would be far more credible than if it came from a European country,” McDonnell noted.
Advocates question Azerbaijan’s oil-and-gas dependency and human rights record
Baku’s presidency over the next COP conference was the result of “fraught negotiations” The Guardian reported. Regions must unanimously agree on the next host, and Azerbaijan and Armenia were blocking each other’s bids, while Russia blocked EU members. The decision has garnered criticism from some environmentalists, who worry about the presidency being granted to another oil and gas-reliant nation. Advocates also pointed to Azerbaijan’s “abysmal” human rights record, citing the detention of Gubad Ibadoghlu, a political activist who has criticized the country’s oil industry. “The world will need more action to phase out fossil fuels at COP29 and, as a major oil producer, Azerbaijan will need to listen to its critics,” one advocate said. Shortly after winning the presidency, Azerbaijan touted its natural gas reserves — an estimated 2.5 trillion cubic meters — and said that it believed the fuel would be paramount to the energy transition, Reuters reported.
COP30 host Brazil has record deforestation
The UN’s decision to make Brazil the host of the climate summit’s 30th anniversary has already garnered controversy. The conference will be held in 2025 in the Amazonian city of Belém, in the state of Pará. Brazil’s former environment minister, Izabella Teixera, lauded the decision when it was announced in May, and environmentalists have said that it’s a signal that the country is tackling climate change. But, Brazil is also “the country that deforests the most in the world and Pará is the state that deforests the most in the Amazon,” said Marcio Astrini of the Climate Observatory.