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Azerbaijan’s climate charm offensive is backfiring – POLITICO

Azerbaijan’s climate charm offensive is backfiring – POLITICO

When Egypt hosted in 2022, activists used the event to highlight the government’s crackdown on political opponents. Last year saw widespread criticism when COP28 host the United Arab Emirates appointed the man tasked with expanding the country’s oil and gas output to lead the talks. Likewise, the incoming president of COP29 is a former Azerbaijani oil and gas industry executive — though he was later tapped to lead the country’s ecology ministry.

Still, Baku has been unapologetic about its intention to use the conference to promote its own economic interests. Aliyev used a speech as host of the talks to brand his country’s natural gas reserves “a gift of the gods” and to push for more investments in the fossil fuel industry, in addition to renewable projects — climate critics be damned.

Europe has increasingly turned to Azerbaijan in recent years as a replacement for the Russian fossil fuel it shunned after Moscow invaded Ukraine. | Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

“As a head of the country, which is rich with fossil fuels, of course, we will defend the right of these countries to continue investments and to continue production,” he said.

“Petrostates are perfecting a sinister COP playbook,” said Patrick Galey, a fossil fuel investigator with Global Witness, a human rights NGO. “Just like the UAE, Azerbaijan is planning a massive increase in gas production. Just like the UAE, Azerbaijan plans to legitimize its authoritarian regime by hosting these global talks. And just like the UAE, Azerbaijan appears set to use COP to develop its international business ties.”

Fresh from its own military conflict, Azerbaijan intends to brand COP29 a “COP of peace,” focusing on the prevention of climate-fueled conflicts and championing green solutions to geopolitical problems. “This provides a big opportunity for Baku, often accused of pursuing a militaristic foreign policy, to showcase its peace plan,” said Murad Muradov, a researcher with Topchubashov Center in the Azerbaijani capital.

However, he added, Aliyev is unlikely to respond well to criticism of his own record. 

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