COP29 — demonstration of Azerbaijan's "green" vector
    Caliber.Az review

    ANALYTICS  16 April 2024 - 14:25

    Khazar Akhundov

    In November 2024, Azerbaijan will host the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP29).

    This forum will become an important international platform for discussing topical issues in the field of ecology, climate problems and the development of "green" energy. On the threshold of this important event, the state structures of the republic study the world experience of COP forums, consult with global partners on organisational issues. The first press conference of the COP29 chairmanship held in Baku the previous day was another step in this direction. The conference outlined the key global priorities to be discussed this autumn, as well as the goals Azerbaijan wants to achieve within the framework of the UN climate conference.

    Initiated by the UN and held since 1992, the COP summits are considered to be the key platforms for discussing the global climate agenda, and all major decisions on countering global warming have been taken at these meetings. For example, during COP3 in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was signed, under which the world's nations made voluntary commitments to reduce emissions and initiated the trading of carbon credits for greenhouse gas emissions. A very important milestone was COP21 in 2015, which culminated in the signing of the Paris Agreement, under which the world's countries agreed to contain the rise in global temperatures in the 21st century to within 2°C of pre-industrial levels, and ideally to prevent a rise of 1.5°C.

    Alas, the succession of geopolitical conflicts and economic crises since the coronavirus pandemic, largely related to the Russian-Ukrainian and Middle Eastern wars, has increased inflation, hunger and the prospect of energy collapse in some of the world's poorest countries. The growing processes of global desertification aggravate the situation: the shortage of fresh water reduces crop yields, while shoaling rivers reduce electricity generation at hydroelectric power plants, forcing many countries to return to environmentally harmful fuels - hard coal, peat and fuel oil. All these negative factors push the UN climate agenda to the background, primarily in developing countries, and in the context of falling incomes deprive poor countries of opportunities and desire to invest in the expansion of "green" generation against the backdrop of falling living standards, social problems, rising food and fuel prices, etc.

    The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in the economically developed regions of the world alone, $4 trillion will need to be invested in the renewable energy sources (RES) sector over the next 10 years to ensure the basic goals of the "Great Energy Transition", and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees worldwide, at least $20 trillion will need to be invested in the RES and energy efficiency segment, as well as in solving other environmental problems.

    This task is very difficult, especially given the fact that in a number of the richest countries in the world, which until recently were at the forefront of the fight against climate change, the number of climate sceptics is increasing and they are in no hurry to share assistance with the developing world as part of UN efforts. In turn, many oil-producing states are advocating for a gradual and longer transition period to full carbon neutrality. It is in such contradictory conditions that global steps are currently being taken to implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    Against this challenging background, Azerbaijan's efforts to organise the next Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention are even more valuable and important, during which it is planned to discuss the most important aspects of the climate agenda, outline prospective goals for the energy transition, and define local objectives for developing regions.

    "COP29 is a great opportunity for Azerbaijan to speed up the green transition. Many argue that a priori oil and gas country cannot be a leader in the environmental sphere, in environmental protection and fighting global climate change, but the upcoming event is a good chance to allow us to show the fallacy of these opinions," Mukhtar Babayev, Azerbaijan's Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, COP29 President-designate, said at a press conference in Baku on April 15. He pointed out that in this respect, Azerbaijan plays the role of a bridge between developed and developing countries, and Azerbaijan can become a good example for other oil and gas countries as well.

    It is relevant to recall here that while increasing the extraction of fossil resources, in recent years Azerbaijan has forced the development of the sector of renewable energy sources, as well as set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 and by 40 per cent by 2050. Elnur Soltanov, Director General of COP29, who spoke at the conference, noted that Azerbaijan's share in global emissions is about one thousandth, with about 70 per cent of emissions falling on the energy sector, and today the country is witnessing a rapid transition from traditional hydrocarbon energy sources to renewable ones.

    In particular, for these purposes, a “green” energy zone is being formed in Karabakh, “smart” cities and villages with elements of renewable energy sources are being built, one and a half dozen small hydroelectric power stations have been reconstructed and built from scratch, and in the near future new solar and wind stations will be created here. Similar steps are being taken on the Absheron Peninsula, and will also soon start in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, where solar stations will be built and an NAR-Türkiye-Europe energy hub will be created. For the same purpose, preparations have begun for laying the Black Sea Energy underwater electric cable along the bottom of the Black Sea: this energy line with a capacity of 1,000 MW is intended to supply electricity generated in the renewable energy sector from Azerbaijan to Europe.

    The next step will be to attract foreign investment to develop the potential of wind energy in the Caspian Sea, production of "green" hydrogen, etc. Azerbaijan is also making a significant contribution to combating the effects of climate change, working to improve the environment, restore and increase green spaces, starting to recycle cars that pollute the atmosphere, and implementing pilot projects on energy efficiency, including economical lighting and digital management of the municipal sector in large cities.

    “In line with the plans, by the end of 2030, generating capacity in the renewable energy sector, mainly at solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants, will reach 5 thousand MW. The figure I voiced is quite realistic and will be achieved based on already signed contracts, and the protocols of intent speak of an even larger figure - about 10,000 megawatts. Thus, we will be able to export a large amount of our natural gas, which we will save,” said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the beginning of this year, emphasizing that by doing so the country would also contribute to solving climate change issues.

    The republic has begun large-scale work to prepare for the COP29 conference, and several government agencies and public organizations have already been involved in this work. Also at the end of last year, by corresponding order of the head of state, 2024 was declared the “Year of Solidarity for the Green World” in order to strengthen international solidarity in the global fight against climate change.

    “Azerbaijan, within the framework of the mandate to host the COP29 conference, approaches the negotiation process with all participating parties through the prism of transparency, inclusiveness and neutrality. “Visits have been made to many states, experiences have been exchanged on holding such forums, and key topics of the COP29 negotiations, including climate finance, other documents to be adopted during the conference, as well as Azerbaijan’s proposals on the climate agenda, have been comprehensively discussed with partners,” chief negotiator of COP29 Yalchin Rafiyev said.

    As for the specific goals that Azerbaijan sets for itself, according to COP29 President Mukhtar Babayev, these are a number of steps towards a “green” transition included in the country’s national priorities, including the Global Methane Commitment initiatives, which provide for voluntary reducing methane emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the country’s installed energy capacity to 30% by 2030.

    Holding COP29 in Azerbaijan helps solve a number of local problems: within the framework of the forum, our country plans to strengthen cooperation on the “green” agenda with international donors, including such projects are already being implemented with the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and development. It is planned that within the framework of COP29, the State Oil Company (SOCAR), as well as Azercosmos, will come forward with their cooperation programs on the “green” track, taking into account the capabilities of remote Earth observation services, geographic information systems, etc.

    According to the leader of the high UN Climate Change Nigar Arpadarai, within the framework of COP29, business forums will be held aimed at attracting the private sector, civil society, and investors to climate projects. Finally, the holding of COP29 promises a significant increase in the dynamics of foreign tourist flow: it is expected that about 70,000-80,000 conference participants, media representatives and other foreign guests will arrive in Baku in November.


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