Azerbaijan’s Former Oil Executive to Lead U.N. Climate Talks

A former executive of Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil and gas firm SOCAR has been selected to lead U.N. climate talks in Baku later this year, which has raised concerns among critics.

Mukhtar Babayev, currently serving as Azerbaijan’s ecology and natural resources minister, was announced on Thursday as the COP29 president-designate by the COP28 United Arab Emirates presidency.

Babayev will succeed Sultan Al-Jaber, who led the controversial COP28 talks in Dubai last year while also heading the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

This appointment means that negotiations at the U.N.’s most significant annual climate conference will be led by a minister with extensive experience in the oil and gas industry for the second year in a row. The COP29 conference is scheduled to take place in Baku in November.

Although not much is known about Babayev, his LinkedIn profile indicates that he worked at SOCAR for over 24 years until April 2018.

Campaign group Global Witness criticized Babayev’s appointment, calling it a “bad case of déjà vu.”

“We now have a former oil executive from an authoritarian petrostate leading the world’s response to the crisis caused by fossil fuel firms,” said Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at Global Witness.

“We urge the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to intervene and exclude big polluters from climate talks, ensuring that the discussions are held in good faith and removing those who prioritize profits over the world’s most vulnerable people,” Harrison added.

reached out to Azerbaijan’s government and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change for comment but received no immediate response.

Collin Rees from Oil Change International, an advocacy group, criticized Babayev’s appointment, describing it as “outrageous” and “deeply worrying.”

“We need to move away from business-as-usual practices that threaten lives and damage the climate, but Azerbaijan’s choice of another lifelong oil industry professional to lead the next UN climate talks pushes us closer to the brink,” Rees stated.

Climate Finance

Simon Stiell, the U.N. climate chief, welcomed Babayev’s appointment and expressed hope for a successful climate summit led by the COP29 president-designate and Azerbaijan Deputy Foreign Minister Yalchin Rafiyev, the lead negotiator of the talks.

Teresa Anderson, global lead on climate justice at ActionAid International, emphasized the role of any COP president in guiding world leaders in the right direction.

“Babayev’s immediate priority should be to ensure that the world’s growing demand for climate action is met with the necessary funding,” Anderson stated.

“COP29 must deliver the desperately needed finance to facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” she added.

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Clayton Turner is a news reporter and copy editor for 24PalNews. Born and raised in Virginia, Clayton graduated from Virginia Tech’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and majored in journalism.

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