Azerbaijan to Host COP29 in 2024, Despite Global Tensions and the Country's Major Oil Reserves

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Dec. 12 2023, Updated 11:08 a.m. ET

The exterior of the United Nations building lined with many flags and flagpoles, representing all the member nations of the UN, located in Geneva, Switzerland.
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The Gist:

  • The host country of each year's COP is usually chosen among a rotating group from any of five regions.
  • COP28 has been shrouded in controversy and was headed by a president with conflicting interests.
  • Azerbaijan will host COP29, it was announced in December.
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The United Nations' annual climate change conference (more commonly referred to as COP) has been overshadowed by controversy in recent years before the formal events even begin. But on Dec. 9, 2023 — much later than when the 2024 host country should have been decided upon — it was announced that Azerbaijan will most likely host 2024's COP29.

Per Reuters, COP28 has not followed the usual pattern of world leaders mapping out the upcoming year's host country. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the host country is typically chosen among five regional areas: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western European and "others."

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The skyline of Baku, Azerbaijan surrounded by many tall buildings and a body of water on a cloudy day.
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Baku, Azerbaijan.

Where is COP29 taking place?

On Dec. 6, 2023, we had what Retuers described as an "unprecedented deadlock" in naming the following year's venue. But things changed on Dec. 9, 2023, when The New York Times reported that a spokesperson for oil-rich Azerbaijan stated that the small nation's capital city Baku, Azerbaijan will host COP29.

On the surface, this decision may seem to make sense, considering the fact that the Eastern European group is technically next in line to host; however, a few factors complicate things.

One is the conflict in Ukraine, which has complicated matters and delayed the announcement of a COP29.

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More notably, there's the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On Dec. 6, 2023, Reuters named Armenia and Azerbaijan as two unlikely options to host COP29.

As the Council on Foreign Relations, a public think tank, describes it, the two are engaged in an extensive, decades-long conflict, which would seemingly prevent either from being chosen to host in 2024.

However, it seems that profits from the oil industry have provided a temporary smoothing of tensions. On Dec. 7, 2023, a joint statement between the two nations Azerbaijan and Armenia indicated that Azerbaijan has the support of Armenia for COP29 in 2024. This show of support from Armenia was instrumental in getting Azerbaijan to become the COP29 host country.

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And on top of all this, the fact that Azerbaijan is a major oil producer is pretty significant. The country has an oil reserve of approximately 7 billion barrels, making it the country with the 20th-largest oil reserves on Earth, as per Worldometer.

As noted by The New York Times, Azerbaijan is the third consecutive significant fossil fuel-producing nation to host the annual climate conference, following Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Considering the fact that burning fossil fuels is one of the chief causes of the climate crisis, this is all extremely concerning.

A few other countries are considered frontrunners to host upcoming COP conferences.

Politico pointed to the UAE and Brazil, two fossil fuel-producing giants scheduled to host within a few years of each other, as examples of the powerful influence of petroleum at COPs.

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And per Reuters, Dubai, UAE was chosen to represent the Asia-Pacific Group for 2023's COP28 back in Nov. 2021; Brazil announced during COP27 its intention to represent Latin America at COP30 in 2025; and India threw its hat in the ring to play host in 2028.

And in May 2022, public think tank Australia Institute made its bid for Australia to host the 2024 event.

Who will be the president of COP29?

The president of a COP is typically someone from the host country — and unfortunately, it's often someone who really should not be in charge of climate talks. And by that, we mean it's often someone with direct ties to the fossil fuel industry.

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Most notably, for 2023's COP28, the president was Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). During the conference, he stated: "There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”

Al Jaber later backtracked and claimed that his comments were taken out of context; however, the oil industry's influence over COP28 is clear, and it's safe to say that environmentalists around the globe are hoping for a COP29 president without such a stake in the fossil fuel industry.

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So considering Azerbaijan's major dependence on its oil and gas reserves, it won't be a surprise if the country appoints a COP29 president who has similar values to those of Sultan Al Jaber.

The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia are surrounded by water at dusk.
Source: iStock

Sydney, Australia.

When is COP29? The dates will likely be in November 2024.

The UN has tabbed November 2024 for world leaders to reconvene at the next COP. The UN's calendar of events indicates Nov. 11-22, 2024 as the specific dates. However, these dates are not 100 percent confirmed yet.

This article, originally published on Dec. 8, 2023, has been updated to reflect the news that Azerbaijan will most likely host COP29.

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