Whilst the Biden administration fails in its climate commitments, the Democrats warn of Azerbaijan
    Beware of those unaware of themselves

    ANALYTICS  29 May 2024 - 16:11

    Orkhan Amashov
    Caliber.Az

    With the US being the world’s second-biggest carbon polluter, rendering it the source of a disproportionate impact on the rest of the globe, its lawmakers’ latest appeal to White House officials, expressing concerns over Azerbaijan’s climate credentials, exudes their lack of self-awareness, topped off with a hearty dose of callous hypocrisy.

    A letter, dated 13 May, addressed by 26 leading US Democrats, including senators Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, together with Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio and Jan Schakowsky, amongst others, states that: “the key UN climate summit hosted by Azerbaijan this year risks being ‘co-opted’ by the fossil fuel industry as the key driver of climate change”.

    The argument employed by the co-signatories is founded on a couple of pillars, namely Azerbaijan having been blessed with fossil fuel resources and COP29 President-designate Mukhtar Babayev’s former association with the hydrocarbons industry, seemingly relevant but largely void; and a few auxiliary points, referring to Baku’s human rights record and casting aspersions on the latest counter-terrorism measures conducted by it in Karabakh, the latter two being substantively irrelevant and incorrect.

    It is also worth noting that, against the backdrop of the US having repeatedly and inexcusably failed to honour its international climate finance commitments, being simultaneously the globe’s largest oil producer and the biggest carbon emitter per capita, and the Democrats in Congress failing to push sufficiently hard to pass President Biden’s delivery commitments, the stated concerns of the co-signatories appear to be indicative of creative inertia, topped off with some simulacrum of moral purpose.

    The authors of the letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Podesta, state that they were “deeply concerned by the appointment of Mukhtar Babayev” as the President-designate of COP29, urging the UN to update its conflict of interests guidelines to “ensure that this situation does not happen again”, yet stopping short of asking for the removal of Babayev.

    “When Mr Babayev is elected, it will be the second year in a row that COP is headed by a fossil fuel executive”, comments the letter which is, strictly speaking, inaccurate, for at the moment of his selection, he was the Minister of Ecology and Natural Reserves, making him arguably the most suitable cabinet candidate for the job. More to that, Babayev ended his SOCAR (the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan) career in 2018, retaining no viable connection to the industry.

    As to Azerbaijan’s oil and gas resources and energy export capabilities somewhat militating against its suitability for hosting the world’s biggest climate conference, the spirit of COP necessitates collective and inclusive solutions, involving all nations, irrespective of their fossil-fuel riches. In this respect, COP29 presents a fresh opportunity, rather than a cause for perturbation.

    US: largest oil producer

    What is particularly intriguing is that, as of today, the US is the world’s biggest crude oil producer. The latest figures emanating from 2023, according to the US Energy Information Administration, suggest production of 12.9 million barrels per day (bpd), superseding its own record, set in 2019, which was 12.3 million bpd. 

    Having said this, the US established a monthly high record in December 2023, at more than 13.3 million bpd, and this record is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. The corresponding figure for Azerbaijan, including condensate, amounts to a mere 598,000 bpd, a rather minuscule proportion, with little carbon footprint.

    LNG and greenwashing

    Furthermore, the US is the world’s biggest exporter of LNG (liquefied natural gas), which is a more problematic form of natural gas in climatic terms, being responsible for about double as much greenhouse gas as ordinary gas.

    This is attributable to the fact that it has to be chilled and maintained at sub-zero temperatures, transported by ship, rail and truck and then reheated to a usable state, cumulatively requiring a great deal of energy.

    US carbon emissions and climate commitments

    As the globe’s second-largest carbon emitter, the US has failed to deliver sufficiently on its climate finance commitments, with the allocated financial resources to combat climate change being trivial in relation to its wealth and stated, albeit unfilled, pledges.

    Although back in 2021, the Biden Administration pledged to increase US international climate finance to over $11.4 billion a year by 2024, the aim, however lofty, is light years away from being fulfilled, for the spending bill for Fiscal Year 2024 contains only $1 billion in dedicated funding for the purpose.

    This is the third year that Congress has been an abject failure in meeting the pledges made by the administration: just $1 billion in a spending package of the whopping size of $1.59 trillion clearly sends a very worrying and damaging message to the rest of the world, undermining the nation’s presumed moral leadership and alienating its allies.

    As sure as the Pope is Catholic, it is highly improbable that this disparity in Presidential budget requests and congressional enactments over international climate finance will be resolved soon. It is not just the discrepancies between the stated pledges and real deliverables that are considerable, but also that in FY24 Congress cut spending below the disappointing levels of the two previous years.

    Budgetary whitewashing: flexible accounts

    Nevertheless, the latest report by the State Department suggests the US could easily honour its pledge of $ 11.4 billion a year, despite hitherto appropriating a mere fraction of this sum, which is less than a tenth of the funding required. This is explained by the fact that congressional appropriations merely specify the minimum amounts set to combat climate change via specified funds, and the overall climate finance scheme, in addition to this, involves flexible agencies and accounts, scaling up their climate investments and using their discretionary financing.

    However, dedicated funding is the key and most consequential part of international climate finance in practical terms, with some viewing the funds as lying beyond the scope of appropriations as a mere simulacrum of climate commitments for a superficial world.

    In the meantime, somewhat intriguingly, albeit understandably, the latest press statement of the State Department, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, issued on 28 May, Azerbaijan’s Independence Day, commented that: “the United States welcomes Azerbaijan in hosting COP29 in Baku, and we look forward to working closely together with the government of Azerbaijan to make the COP a success”.

    In many ways, this exemplifies the affairs of the mighty in grand politics, and that such letters written by the US Democrats are merely of a perfunctory trivial nature, guided by the whims of the uninitiated, lacking in genuine moral compass for practical purposes.

    Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, parties to the accord pledged to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, with the high ambition of limiting this to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was a bit of a stretch back then and somewhat impractical now.

    As climate change concerns legitimately occupy a central place in the world’s global agenda, the US has a greater responsibility than most nations to play an integral role in reversing the sins of our forefathers. In view of the Biden Administration’s failure to deliver on its promises and the abject inaction of the Democrats in Congress to facilitate this via the legislature, this letter, addressing the members of the self-same party, makes one shudder as to how unaware of their own immediate priorities they must have been at the time of signing.

    Accusations have been made by US commentators, that the hosting of COP by such oil-rich nations as Azerbaijan is emblematic of “greenwashing” and the “poacher turned gamekeeper”. But, as H.E. Elim Suleymanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, stated at a COP29 debate at the LSE in London last night, Azerbaijan will lead by example and demonstrate that, if a hydrocarbons nation can be serious about counteracting climate change, others should follow. The US is defiantly a “pot calling the kettle black” but, in a superficial, short-termist and distracted world, its gas-guzzling behaviour is being swept under the carpet at every opportunity.

    Caliber.Az

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