Too early to talk about the next Cop29 in Azerbaijan? Given what’s at stake, absolutely not. With a few weeks to go before the end of COP28 in Dubai, it is not wrong to look to the next world climate summit, which will be hosted by the former Transcaucasian Soviet republic.
Just as there was a lot of chatter in the months preceding COP28 for having assigned the summit to a country known for its oil production, in the same way some notes are also made regarding COP29 in Azerbaijan, a country that invests and will invest a lot in oil and gas extraction.
In fact, in recent weeks the Azeri government’s desire to increase gas production by a third over the next ten years has been clearly underlined: a strong statement, especially thinking about Cop29 and what happened in Nagorno Karabakh.
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It will host COP29, but will increase gas production
How is it possible to combine the next Cop29, i.e. the United Nations summit dedicated to the climate issue and aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels, with the clear desire to increase gas extraction?
The line of the Azerbaijan government has been summarized in recent days by the Guardian, where it is explained that the country’s annual gas production will increase by 12 billion cubic meters in the next 10 years.
This knowing that the lines dictated by previous Cops on climate are clear in affirming the opposite path, and therefore a progressive decommissioning of plants for the extraction of fossil fuels, so as to be able to stem climate change.
Azerbaijan has one of the largest gas fields in the world, namely Shah Deniz, in the Caspian Sea. It is expected that a total of 411 billion cubic meters of gas will be extracted here over the next decade.
According to analysts at Rystand Energy, this will lead to 781 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. However, this prediction could be much lower than what will actually happen in the coming years.
In fact, there are several gas reserves that are believed to be present but which have not yet been explored, but which could see drilling in the coming years; and again, the production of gas condensate is not included in the calculations, which however will be present in the coming years.
Mukhtar Babayev: Who will be the president of the 2024 summit in Azerbaijan?
The government of Azerbaijan, while preparing to host COP29, is not hiding its aims in the energy field. On the contrary. In December President Ilham Aliyev expressed his desire to double gas exports to Europe already by 2027.
Among the customers of Azerbaijani gas there are also Georgia and Turkey, with Azerbaijan intending exploit the lack of Russian supplies to the European Union to its advantage.
In this context, it is not surprising that the role of president of COP29 will be played by a government loyalist, the same Mukhtar Babayev who has been minister of ecology and natural resources since 2018, after a 26-year career in the Socar oil company.
In short, something similar to what happened with the president of Cop28, Sultan Al Jaber, is being repeated.
The role of the dispute in Nagorno Karabakh
The policy on fossil fuels adopted by Azerbaijan is not only frightening when looking at Cop29 which will be held towards the end of 2024.
Also casting long shadows on the actions of the Azerbaijani government is the fact that the country’s gas exports have had a direct role in financing the military aggression carried out against the Armenians of the separatist region of Nagorno Karabakh, an operation that various international commentators have defined as an act of “ethnic cleansing”.