COP28 is not even over, but next year’s climate conference is already in the spotlight.
As the U.N. scrambles to find a host for COP29 following this year’s controversial summit, Azerbaijan has become a likely frontrunner after Armenia – a historic rival of Azerbaijan – unexpectedly said it would drop its own bid and back Baku to host the next summit.
Whoever hosts next year’s gathering faces numerous hurdles as geopolitics get in the way of climate action. Rights to host the summit rotate around the world – but with an Eastern European country next in line, the war in Ukraine has complicated those efforts.
Russia’s support is needed for whoever hosts COP29. Under U.N. rules, the summit moves between five global regions, whose countries must agree on a host. But Moscow has signaled its intention to block EU countries from the role because of the bloc’s opposition to its war in Ukraine, with Bulgaria becoming the latest country to drop its bid following intervention from Russia. In the competition to host COP, “the winner becomes the captain”, Bloomberg writes, with the power to influence global climate legislation, making it an enticing role for smaller nations. But Russia’s stance is forcing governments to think of alternative solutions, with Bulgaria’s environmental minister telling Reuters that the huge summit could be split into a series of smaller conferences held in different Eastern European countries.
Would tapping Baku for COP29 be “another win for oil states?” asks Politico’s Corbin Hiar. Azerbaijan follows in the footsteps of former hosts Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as another major oil exporter staging discussions on how to respond to a warming Earth. But the contentious debate over who gets to host COP, heavily influenced by Russia’s agenda, could also “foreshadow future impasses over energy”, Hiar writes. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Abu Dhabi during COP28 to negotiate oil deals “seemed designed to thumb his nose” at the global climate talks happening close by, says Politico. The contenders for COP29 all have strong connections to Russia’s energy industry: Baku has grown closer to Moscow in recent months, while the other top two – Serbia and Moldova – are dependent on Moscow for oil and gas supplies.
With Brazil set to host COP30, the conference could finally provide “the chance for the Amazon to speak for itself,” writes climate advisor Mariana Ribeiro for Purpose, a social impact agency. The decision to host COP28 in Dubai was seen as a blow for Indigenous communities, with fossil fuel lobbyists outnumbering Indigenous community representatives seven to one, according to an analysis by advocacy group Kick Big Polluters Out. But COP30 presents an opportunity for governments to discuss how emerging green technologies “can be informed by the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples,” Ribeiro writes. While the Earth’s rainforests can be a source of economic opportunity, leaders at COP30 must advocate for Indigenous representatives on the debate floor to understand the “practical urban challenges faced by the 30 million inhabitants of the Amazon.”