Azerbaijan Minister, Veteran of State Oil Companies, to Lead COP29 Climate Talks

File photo COP28 | Photo: Bloomberg

The government of Azerbaijan has appointed its Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev to chair the United Nations COP29 climate talks to be held in Baku in November.

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

Before coming to power in 2018, Babayev spent 24 years at Azerbaijani state oil and gas company Socar, according to his LinkedIn profile. During that time, he also briefly served as the company's vice president of ecology.

The choice of Babayev continues the controversial trend of those with deep ties to the oil and gas industry driving the UN

climate conversations. The summit held in Dubai last year was chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the current head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

An investigation by the BBC and the Center 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 major exporter of natural gas. At a meeting with reporters last month attended by Reuters, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, praised the country's gas potential.

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

The COP28 presidency's tweet also noted that Azerbaijan's 36-year-old Deputy Foreign Minister Yalchin Rafiyev would serve as chief negotiator of this year's climate summit.

Reacting to the news, scientists expressed their disappointment on social media.

Climate scientist Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania wrote on to provide leadership.

First print: January 5, 2024 | 11:17 PM IST