A veteran from Azerbaijan’s state oil company has been appointed as the president for Cop29

The government of Azerbaijan has designated its environment minister, Mukhtar Babayev, as the president of the Cop29 climate talks scheduled to be held in Baku in November.

In this role, Babayev will preside over the talks, while Yalchin Rafiyev, Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign minister, has been appointed as the lead negotiator by the Cop28 presidency.

Babayev, who became environment minister in 2018, previously spent 26 years at Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company (Socar), working towards mitigating the company’s environmental impact. During his tenure, he emphasized a need for a shift in Socar’s approach to the environment while continuing oil and gas production.

Despite being described as “nice” and “soft” by a recent negotiator, concerns have been raised about Babayev’s perceived lack of independent authority to advocate for global fossil fuel phase-out, unlike Cop28 president Sultan Al-Jaber.

Yalchin Rafiyev, a newcomer to climate diplomacy, began participating in climate talks from Cop28 onwards. His experience mainly stems from diplomatic service within Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry and representation in various international organizations.

Azerbaijan’s selection as the Cop29 host was deemed unexpected due to its limited track record in UN climate diplomacy. The country heavily relies on oil and gas revenue, raising questions about its commitment to climate action given its economic dependence and restrictions on civil liberties noted by human rights organizations.

Rafiyev’s transition from the international security department to deputy foreign minister coincided with the aftermath of Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia in 2020, influencing his public stance on alleged Armenian genocide.

Despite these challenges, there is anticipation regarding Azerbaijan’s potential leadership in the Cop29 talks, although concerns persist about the country’s historical diplomatic engagement and its substantial reliance on fossil fuels.

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