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Humanitys Global Aspirations Hinge on Decisions to Be Reached at COP29 in Baku

1 July 2024

From November 11 through 22, 2024 the 29th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, COP29) will be held in Baku.  The Republic of Azerbaijan (RA) will be the first South Caucasus and the first post-Soviet country to host the global climate summit. For two weeks the capital city of Azerbaijan will function as an authoritative international platform bringing together heads of states and governments, representatives of various international institutions, business, civil society and media to discuss top priority problems caused by global warming as well as measures that must be taken to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and develop climate-related goals and strategies.

The Global Problem

The global climate change affecting the Earth is among the most pressing problems the modern humanity is ever more concerned about. One of the factors behind it is anthropogenic, i.e. human economic activities, in particular fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and intensive livestock farming. These activities lead to growing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, causing the greenhouse effect and temperature increase.

According to UN data, starting from the 1980s every decade has been warmer than the preceding one. And the decade 2011-2020 was the warmest on record. As temperature increases, weather patterns change and the natures balance is upset. Over the last few years, natural phenomena such as storms, hurricanes, mudflow and floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires, etc. have been observed with unusual frequency in different parts of the world.

Temperature growth presents a major threat to human health and social wellbeing and causes serious environmental damage placing a great many animal and plant species in danger of extinction.

Of course, Azerbaijan does not remain unaffected by negative impacts of global warming. The countrys agriculture is hit the hardest. Over the last few years RA has experienced problems with irrigation water availability due to climate change [1].

According to a research conducted by the World Resources Institute, Azerbaijan ranks 18th among nations that could face severe drought by 2040 [2].

Another serious problem for RA as well as for the whole Caspian region is Caspian Sea water level drop and desert invasion.

A few years ago, a team of German scientists from the Universities of Giessen and Bremen and the Dutch geologist Frank P. Wesselingh from the Utrecht University built a predictive model of Caspian Sea level change till the end of the century [3]. The researchers observed Caspian water levels to fall several centimeters every year since the 1990s. German and Dutch scientists estimated that from now to 2100, the Caspian Sea level will drop 9-18 meters, and its surface area will shrink by 23-34%. This will cause a host of problems for the regions environment, economy and political stability.

In November, 2023 Mukhtar Babayev, the Republic of Azerbaijan Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, announced that over the last five years, the Caspian Sea water level declined by 69 cm and over the last ten years, by 1.14 cm. He said that the Azerbaijani side had initiated the establishment of a working group to study the problem in all its aspects and to develop water level change scenarios and relevant response measures.

Caspian region environmental problems were the focus of the 1st Caspian Blue Horizons Workshop co-organized by the Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC, the ADA University and the IDEA public association. The title topic was «Synergizing Science and Business for Greater Climate Resilience and Caspian Sea Sustainability on the Eve of COP29».

Around 100 participants, including more than 30 distinguished scientists and researchers from 15 leading universities and academic institutions across 12 countries, contributed to various thematic panels of the event. Moreover, the workshop gave floor to high-level government officials, heads of diplomatic institutions, private sector leaders, and representatives from international and civic organizations.

Hosting of these series of discussions underscores Bakus commitment to fostering international cooperation in Caspian Sea studies and pooling stakeholders efforts in search for adequate solutions to the environmental challenges of the Caspian Sea region. Next September 2024 Azerbaijan plans to hold a second workshop to address the Caspian Sea environmental situation, this time in Switzerland.

Saving the Climate a Global Agenda

Climate change is a global emergency that has long transcended national borders. It is an issue that requires international cooperation and coordinated solutions at all levels in order to reduce the impact of carbon footprint. Being aware of the planetary scale of the climate threat, the international community has spent years searching for joint solutions to address climate change.

The annual Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the biggest and most important platform for discussion of humanity-wide environmental issues climate-related conferences on the planet. It was initiated in 1992 when the Earth Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in which the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted and its coordinating agency, the UN Climate Change secretariat, was established [4]. In this document, the participating nations agree to «stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system». As of today, it has been signed by 197 countries. 

Since 1994, when the document entered into force, every year the UN holds global climate summits (COPs) on a rotational basis in a country from one of the UNs five regional groups.

The 2024 was to be held in an East Europe group country. It will be recalled that, apart from Azerbaijan, bids to host COP29 were entered by Armenia and Bulgaria. Eventually, Yerevan and Sofia dropped their bids, and on December 11, 2023 the Conference of the Parties approved the bid by the Republic of Azerbaijan to host COP-29.

A breakthrough in the history of UN Climate Change Conference was the adoption of the Paris Agreement by 196 country leaders who met in the French Capital for COP21 in December 2015. The Paris Agreement marks the first step in transition to a climate-neutral world the goal to be achieved by the international community by mid-century.

The Paris Agreement is the first-ever legally binding document that unites countries striving to achieve their shared climate goals and work together to adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

The key objective of the Paris Agreement is to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and hold global temperature increase to well below 2°C in the course of the century, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

The Agreement provides a pathway for developed nations to assist developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts while creating a framework for the transparent monitoring and reporting of countries climate goals [5].

At the previous UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Dubai, the countries undertook the first global assessment of global progress in achieving the shared climate goals within the framework of the Paris Agreement.

The summary document of the Dubai climate summit is a high-level plan of urgent measures that governments and stakeholders need to implement to limit global average temperature increase in the 21st century to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The COP28 summary document contains targets and recommendations for the participants to consider when developing an update of their national climate action plans within the framework of the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCS). The next country NDCS must be submitted at least 12 months before CP30, which is scheduled to take place in 2025 in Brazil [6].

Bakus Great Green Capacity and Plans

Azerbaijans share in global greenhouse gas emissions is 0.15%. Nevertheless, RA is fully committed to making a tangible contribution to international climate change mitigation efforts. Azerbaijan is an active participant in regional environmental projects and a party to a number of international agreements aimed at CO2 emissions reduction. For years the country has given due consideration to environmental matters. As early as in 1997, recognizing the relevance and importance of the issue, the national leader of the Azerbaijani people Heydar Aliyev established the State Commission on Climate Change.

At present Bakus climate agenda is manifested through the «Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development» strategy currently under implementation. One of the priorities set forth in the document is a clean environment and a country of «green growth».

It should be noted that Azerbaijan has declared 2024 the Year of Solidarity for a Green World.

As part of international climate protection efforts, RA has committed to achieve a 35% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 and a 40% reduction by 2050 against the 1990 level.

In order to address climate change consequences, Baku implements measures aimed at environmental enhancement, forests and greenbelts restoration expansion; the country is implementing pilot energy efficiency projects, including those which involve thrifty lighting, digital management of big city utilities sector, low-emission transport, innovative municipal transport solutions, implementation of low-carbon, environmentally friendly industrial technologies, better waste handling, etc. 

According to UN data, the largest contribution to global climate change comes from the use of fossil fuels, which account for over 75% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and nearly 90% of carbon dioxide emissions. In this regard, increasing the share of Renewable Energy Resources (RES) in total electric power generation should be a top priority of any individual country addressing climate change.

The energy sector accounts for around 70% of Azerbaijans air emissions, so great emphasis is made on renewable energy. The country is rich in renewable energy sources, their total capacity approaching 200 GW. The potential capacity of the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea alone is estimated at 157 GW, 20 times the combined capacity of all power plants currently in operation.

The liberated territories within the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions, currently undergoing rehabilitation, possess a great power generation potential. There are plans to transform those areas, which sustained a serious environmental damage during the decades of Armenian occupation, into a net-zero emissions zone. 

Over the last few years Azerbaijan has made significant progress in promoting green energy. In Quarter 1 of 2022, foundations were laid for the first pilot RES projects implemented in cooperation with leading international renewable energy companies.

In the autumn of 2023 the Garadagh Solar PV Plant, the largest in the Caspian region and the CIS, was commissioned with an installed capacity of 230 MW. It has the potential of producing 500 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, thereby reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 200 thousand tons a year. The plant was built at the expense of foreign investment worth $262 million. The Garadagh Solar PV Plant is the first industrial-scale solar project realized in RA with foreign investment. Construction was performed by Masdar Company of the United Arab Emirates.

Construction is underway of the 240 MW Khizi-Absheron wind power plant in a Baku suburb. The contractor is ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia. The project cost is $300 mln, its commissioning is scheduled for 2025. The power plant is expected to generate 1 bn kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to meet the demand of some 300 thousand households.

In early June, RA launched three new green projects: the 445 MW Bilasuvar and the 315 MW Neftchala solar power plants, and the 240 MW Absheron-Garadagh wind farm. The three projects totaling nearly $1bn in investment value are being implemented by the Masdar Company referred to earlier. By 2030 it plans to generate up to 10 GW of clean energy in Azerbaijan.

Apart from Masdar and ACWA Power, Azerbaijans green energy market attracted leading energy companies from other countries including USA, China, Türkiye, UK, Germany, France, and Australia. According to the Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Baku has already signed letters of intent and memoranda of understanding with foreign investors concerning generation of 10 GW of electricity from RES.

RA is currently planning to lay the foundation for two more solar facilities in East Zangezur in cooperation with BP (UK) and Nobel Energy (Türkiye). This announcement was made at the recent Baku Energy Forum by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Parviz Shakhbazov. According to Shakhbazov, by 2027, while in the first phase of partnership with energy companies, Azerbaijan intends to implement new renewable energy projects with the total capacity of 2 GW, thereby increasing the RES share in the countrys power balance to 33%.

It bears reminding that the strategy «Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development» currently under implementation provides for increasing the share of renewable energy in total energy production from 17% to 24% in 2025 and to 30% in 2030. The countrys green energy capacity will therefore grow at an accelerated pace.

As the share of RES generation increases, Azerbaijan will also have a good opportunity to produce green and blue hydrogen with a profit. This may become realistic by mid- 2030s [7]. It is expected that by 2037 Azerbaijan, jointly with international energy companies, will be able to install around 19 GW of capacity to produce and export green electric power, hydrogen and green ammonia.

With the same goals in view, preparatory work has been started for the construction of the Black Sea Green Energy Corridor that will connect the power systems of Georgia and Romania. The 1,000 MW transmission line, to be laid on the Black Sea bottom, will be used to export RES-generated power from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Europe. Another green energy supply line from Azerbaijan will be built along the Nakhichevan-Türkiye-Europe route.

Baku to Become Hub of the World

The choice of Azerbaijan as the host country for COP29 is perceived by Baku as a major diplomatic success and a sign of undisputed confidence in the countrys environmental agenda and its contribution to the climate-related efforts on the part of the international community.

Note that Azerbaijan already has substantial and valuable experience in hosting different kinds of major international events and forums. As an important transport hub with an advanced international airport and up-to-date infrastructure, the capital of Azerbaijan has repeatedly proven to be a perfect venue for large-scale events.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had stated before that the forthcoming climate conference is one of the most prestigious international events as it is on a par with the UN General Assembly in terms of country representation.

Indeed, in November 2024 delegates from nearly 200 countries will come together in Baku for two weeks, the city thus becoming the hub of the world. From 70 to 80 thousand foreign guests are expected to visit Azerbaijan during the summit period.

Speaking recently at the opening ceremony of the Baku Energy Week, President Ilham Aliyev reiterated that Azerbaijan as the COP29 host country is well aware of the benefits and challenges associated with this demanding task not just in terms of organizational issues but also in terms of actual results.

On the organizational side, early in 2024 Ilham Aliyev issued a special order appointing Mukhtar Babayev, the Azerbaijan Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, to be president of the 29th session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties. He was authorized to organize a team responsible for COP29 preparation and presidency.

Addressing the audience at the first press conference on the climate summit in April, 29 president said that, within its presidency and summit host mandate, Azerbaijan will demonstrate continuous activity towards the enhancement of global solidarity in matters of climate change.

Mukhtar Babayev then remarked that the COP29 presidium team intended to visit different regions of the world including Africa, small island states of the Caribbean, Central Asia, Europe and North America in order to hear all viewpoints. Babayev pointed out that Azerbaijan is determined to act in a fair manner and consider the needs of all parties, so that the Baku conference would be a success story for everyone.

Climate summit preparation has entered an active phase. As the work proceeds, RA is analyzing experience of other countries that have hosted COP before, while also referring to its own experience in holding large-scale international events [8].

During the recent 60th session of UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies in Bonn (Germany), which is one of the key preparation stages for the Baku global climate summit, the COP29 Operating Company presented essential information concerning event preparation.

In the course of the Bonn conference, the 29 Presidency Team conducted a large series of substantive talks with various negotiation groups. In particular, the 29 president Mukhtar Babayev met with the UN task force, representatives of the UN office in Azerbaijan, UNFCCC, UNDP and UNEP, to discuss coordinated efforts to promote global action against climate change.

The Bonn conference participants discussed, among other things, draft versions of the documents to be adopted at the Baku summit.

As is well known, one of the key items on the COP29 agenda is anti-global warming funding, a traditional discussion point at UN climate summits. The finance goal set in Copenhagen in 2009 is expected to be revised at COP29 based on updated calculations.

The reader will recall that at the 15th UNFCCC session developed countries committed to mobilizing climate finance for developing countries and set themselves the goal of reaching $100 bn per year by 2020. However, as has been demonstrated in official reports, the goal was not attained.

Still, wealthy countries continue to promise financial assistance as part of their efforts to counter global warming. More specifically, the participants of COP27, held in November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, decided to set up a specialized Loss and Damage Fund to assist developing countries that are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change [9]. And on the very first day of the Dubai climate summit an agreement was announced making the fund operational. As of now, all contributions are made on a voluntary basis.

Within the framework of COP28, the Fund pooled about $800 mln, nowhere near enough to cover the annual damage from climate change, which is estimated at $400 bn. The countries that announced their contributions to the Fund while in Dubai are UAE, Germany, Italy, France, UK, USA and China. Notably, the latter two, while being the worlds largest emitters, allocated a mere $17.5 mln and $10 mln, respectively.

Analysts at World Resources Institute (USA) estimated that by 2030 the attainment of global climate goals will require at least $4.3 trn to be raised by international climate funds every year.

What Can Azerbaijan Offer and Gain at COP29?

Note that in the recent years, UN climate conferences have been held in hydrocarbon producing countries. Following Egypt and UAE, Azerbaijan will be the third major fossil fuel producer to host a global climate summit. Next in line is Brazil, which also exports oil and gas to the world market. Analysts view this trend as the UNs attempt to entice fossil fuel exporting countries to join the «climate party», and also to close the gap between oil and gas producing countries and the green-minded ones.

Looking back, one of the hottest discussion points at the Dubai climate conference was global shift away from coal, oil and gas. In fact, on the first day of COP28 all the 27 countries of the European Union and 79 members of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States issued a joint statement arguing, among other things, for a global phase out of unabated fossil fuels as a measure to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Proponents of the green agenda insisted on unbending commitments to phase out fossil fuel and to set peak emission levels by 2025. But a large number of countries whose economic development hinges on the use of hydrocarbons spoke against such an uncompromising solution, proposing instead a less radical, phased shift away from unabated fossil fuel.

On its part, the United Nations announced that the final agreement adopted by the Dubai climate conference signals «beginning of the end» of the fossil fuel era.

As regards Azerbaijan, it stands, as many other oil and gas producing countries do, for a gradual transition to full climate neutrality over a longer period. This approach adopted by Baku is explained by its determination to avoid painful consequences for the national economy and energy security. This is why in the coming decades RA is planning not only to continue hydrocarbons production but also to increase investment in oil and gas projects. To a great extent this choice is dictated by a dynamic growth in demand for Azerbaijani oil and gas from European countries, providing a source of sustainable national budget revenue.

That said, Azerbaijan is positioned as a successful case of an oil and gas exporting country that puts proceeds from hydrocarbon sale to efficient use, in particular by investing them in its green agenda [10].

Within this context, Azerbaijan is determined to pursue its economy model which relies on long-term benefits from natural resources and products through their reuse or processing [11]. Baku officials believe that this circular economy model will enable the country to counter pollution, resource depletion and biodiversity loss as the key environmental impacts. Besides, it will underlie sustainable production and consumption models, facilitate the achievement of the UN climate-related sustainable development indicators while also boosting innovation and new business activities.

«Many argue that an oil and gas country a priori cannot be a leader in the environmental sphere, in environmental protection and in countering global climate change, but the upcoming event is a good chance for us to demonstrate the fallacy of these opinions», COP29 President Mukhtar Babayev believes. He pointed out that in this respect, Azerbaijan plays the role of a bridge between developed and developing countries, and can serve as a model for other oil and gas producing nations.

Meanwhile, speaking at the recent climate conference in Bonn, Yalchin Rafiyev, Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan and chief negotiator of COP29, said that the international climate community has great expectations from the forthcoming event in Baku. He expressed confidence that it will be one of the most successful climate summits that were ever held.

Taking into consideration Azerbaijans achievements in energy transition and countering climate change, holding COP29 in Baku is consistent with two goals, Ilham Shaban, Director of the Center for Oil Studies, believes [12]. First, conference participants may use the Azerbaijan case as a model for developing their own phased green energy transition plans. Second, speaking from the point of view of oil and gas supplier to the world market, Azerbaijan can inform the world of possible implications of a radical renunciation of fossil fuel, suggesting instead a more moderate and phased energy transition.

Holding COP29 in Azerbaijan helps solve a number of local problems [13]. For example, within the framework of the forum Baku plans to strengthen cooperation on the green agenda with international donors including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and development which are involved in a number of projects currently underway in RA. It is planned that the companies SOCAR and Azercosmos will come forward with their cooperation programs on the COP29 green track. In addition, within the framework of COP29, business forums will be held aimed at attracting the private sector, civil society and investors to climate projects. Obviously, the arrival in Baku of such a great number of foreign guests will contribute to a significant inflow of foreign tourists.

The international climate conference in Baku will undoubtedly make a great contribution to fostering environmental culture in the society. As part of its summit preparation effort, the COP29 Azerbaijan Operating Company has announced the commencement of the COP29 Academy. Its main purpose is to actively involve youth in fostering environmental awareness and anti-climate change activities.

Conclusions

Summing up, it can be noted that over the last few years Azerbaijan has been consistently strengthening its positions as a key player in the energy, transport and logistics sectors, both in the South Caucasus region and worldwide. COP29 will enable the Republic of Azerbaijan to position itself as an active supporter of the global climate agenda; that will further enhance the countrys international prestige, thus making it even more attractive to investors.

By entering a bid to host the UN climate conference, Azerbaijan underscores its commitment to environmentally sustainable development and international cooperation. The 2024 global climate summit in Baku will enable Azerbaijan to showcase its pro-climate achievements to the international community. Moreover, the event will give an additional impetus to the development of the countrys renewable energy sector, thereby attracting even more investment into green projects.

The forthcoming 29th session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Azerbaijan will definitely play a major role in finding effective solutions to pressing environmental issues in the Caspian Sea basin.

Having confirmed his intention to attend the Baku climate summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he expected COP29 «to be a moment of change, in the sense that there will be a global recognition that we are moving towards an abyss» [14].

«We stand at a critical juncture in history. I would like to see some decisive measures taken at this conference in Baku, but still within the framework of climate justice; considering the interests of developing countries that do not contribute to climate change but suffer greatly from it. Decisions that reverse the trend of climate change while also responding to the needs of those developing countries experiencing dramatic consequences and in need of resources will be a significant step forward», UN Secretary General said, adding that «developed countries must commit more effectively and contribute to addressing the problems faced by developing countries under the pressure of climate change».

1. Azerbaijani agriculture affected by climate change. Trend News Agency, 09.02.2020. https://www.trend.az/azerbaijan/society/3188842.html

2. Samaddin Asadov: Azerbaijan feeling brunt of climate change in water resources. REPORT News Agency, 11.06.2024. https://report.az/ru/ikt/samaddin-asadov-v-azerbajdzhane-posledstviya-izmeneniya-klimata-oshushayutsya-v-oblasti-vodnyh-resursov/

3. Scientist report a dangerous Caspian sea level decline. RIA Novosti, 23.12.2020. https://ria.ru/20201223/kaspiy-1590587703.html

4. Sharm el-Sheikh conference: What you need to know to find your way at the UN climate event. United Nations, 28.10.2023. https://news.un.org/ru/story/2022/10/1434097

5. Paris Agreement. United Nations Organization, https://www.un.org/ru/climatechange/paris-agreement#

6. Why the Global Stocktake is Important for Climate Action this Decade. United Nations Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/topics/global-stocktake/about-the-global-stocktake/why-the-global-stocktake-is-important-for-climate-action-this-decade

7. Not a shadow of doubt. Bakinskiy Rabochiy, 20.12.2023. https://br.az/economy/68358/ni-teni-somneniy/

8. Presentation on COP29 preparation progress took place in Bonn. AZERTAC, 07.06.2024. https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/prezentaciya_o_podgotovke_k_cop29_sostoyalas_v_bonne-3045462

9. Will the World Bank make good on the loss and damage fund? ODI, 08.12.2023. https://odi.org/en/insights/will-the-world-bank-make-good-on-the-loss-and-damage-fund/

10. Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Euronews TV channel. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan website, 02.03.2024. https://president.az/ru/articles/view/64972

11. COP29: Azerbaijans model to address climate change. AZERTAC, 25.01.2024. https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/cop29_azerbaidzhanskaya_model_v_borbe_s_izmeneniem_klimata-2896636

12. COP29 in Azerbaijan: What is the purpose of the conference, and how the Republic will benefit. SPUTNIK Azerbaijan, 15.12.2023. https://az.sputniknews.ru/20231215/cop29-v-azerbaydzhane-v-chem-smysl-konferentsii-i-chto-ona-dast-respublike-461326793.html

13. COP29 Demonstration of Azerbaijan's «green» vector. CALIBER.AZ, 16.04.2024. https://caliber.az/post/234014/

14. UN Secretary General: COP29 in Baku must take decisive measures or the World will be at the abyss. TASS, 28.06.2024. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/21226359

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

Humanitys Global Aspirations Hinge on Decisions to Be Reached at COP29 in Baku

1 2024

From November 11 through 22, 2024 the 29th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, COP29) will be held in Baku.  The Republic of Azerbaijan (RA) will be the first South Caucasus and the first post-Soviet country to host the global climate summit. For two weeks the capital city of Azerbaijan will function as an authoritative international platform bringing together heads of states and governments, representatives of various international institutions, business, civil society and media to discuss top priority problems caused by global warming as well as measures that must be taken to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and develop climate-related goals and strategies.

The Global Problem

The global climate change affecting the Earth is among the most pressing problems the modern humanity is ever more concerned about. One of the factors behind it is anthropogenic, i.e. human economic activities, in particular fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and intensive livestock farming. These activities lead to growing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, causing the greenhouse effect and temperature increase.

According to UN data, starting from the 1980s every decade has been warmer than the preceding one. And the decade 2011-2020 was the warmest on record. As temperature increases, weather patterns change and the natures balance is upset. Over the last few years, natural phenomena such as storms, hurricanes, mudflow and floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires, etc. have been observed with unusual frequency in different parts of the world.

Temperature growth presents a major threat to human health and social wellbeing and causes serious environmental damage placing a great many animal and plant species in danger of extinction.

Of course, Azerbaijan does not remain unaffected by negative impacts of global warming. The countrys agriculture is hit the hardest. Over the last few years RA has experienced problems with irrigation water availability due to climate change [1].

According to a research conducted by the World Resources Institute, Azerbaijan ranks 18th among nations that could face severe drought by 2040 [2].

Another serious problem for RA as well as for the whole Caspian region is Caspian Sea water level drop and desert invasion.

A few years ago, a team of German scientists from the Universities of Giessen and Bremen and the Dutch geologist Frank P. Wesselingh from the Utrecht University built a predictive model of Caspian Sea level change till the end of the century [3]. The researchers observed Caspian water levels to fall several centimeters every year since the 1990s. German and Dutch scientists estimated that from now to 2100, the Caspian Sea level will drop 9-18 meters, and its surface area will shrink by 23-34%. This will cause a host of problems for the regions environment, economy and political stability.

In November, 2023 Mukhtar Babayev, the Republic of Azerbaijan Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, announced that over the last five years, the Caspian Sea water level declined by 69 cm and over the last ten years, by 1.14 cm. He said that the Azerbaijani side had initiated the establishment of a working group to study the problem in all its aspects and to develop water level change scenarios and relevant response measures.

Caspian region environmental problems were the focus of the 1st Caspian Blue Horizons Workshop co-organized by the Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC, the ADA University and the IDEA public association. The title topic was «Synergizing Science and Business for Greater Climate Resilience and Caspian Sea Sustainability on the Eve of COP29».

Around 100 participants, including more than 30 distinguished scientists and researchers from 15 leading universities and academic institutions across 12 countries, contributed to various thematic panels of the event. Moreover, the workshop gave floor to high-level government officials, heads of diplomatic institutions, private sector leaders, and representatives from international and civic organizations.

Hosting of these series of discussions underscores Bakus commitment to fostering international cooperation in Caspian Sea studies and pooling stakeholders efforts in search for adequate solutions to the environmental challenges of the Caspian Sea region. Next September 2024 Azerbaijan plans to hold a second workshop to address the Caspian Sea environmental situation, this time in Switzerland.

Saving the Climate a Global Agenda

Climate change is a global emergency that has long transcended national borders. It is an issue that requires international cooperation and coordinated solutions at all levels in order to reduce the impact of carbon footprint. Being aware of the planetary scale of the climate threat, the international community has spent years searching for joint solutions to address climate change.

The annual Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the biggest and most important platform for discussion of humanity-wide environmental issues climate-related conferences on the planet. It was initiated in 1992 when the Earth Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in which the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted and its coordinating agency, the UN Climate Change secretariat, was established [4]. In this document, the participating nations agree to «stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system». As of today, it has been signed by 197 countries. 

Since 1994, when the document entered into force, every year the UN holds global climate summits (COPs) on a rotational basis in a country from one of the UNs five regional groups.

The 2024 was to be held in an East Europe group country. It will be recalled that, apart from Azerbaijan, bids to host COP29 were entered by Armenia and Bulgaria. Eventually, Yerevan and Sofia dropped their bids, and on December 11, 2023 the Conference of the Parties approved the bid by the Republic of Azerbaijan to host COP-29.

A breakthrough in the history of UN Climate Change Conference was the adoption of the Paris Agreement by 196 country leaders who met in the French Capital for COP21 in December 2015. The Paris Agreement marks the first step in transition to a climate-neutral world the goal to be achieved by the international community by mid-century.

The Paris Agreement is the first-ever legally binding document that unites countries striving to achieve their shared climate goals and work together to adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

The key objective of the Paris Agreement is to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and hold global temperature increase to well below 2°C in the course of the century, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

The Agreement provides a pathway for developed nations to assist developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts while creating a framework for the transparent monitoring and reporting of countries climate goals [5].

At the previous UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Dubai, the countries undertook the first global assessment of global progress in achieving the shared climate goals within the framework of the Paris Agreement.

The summary document of the Dubai climate summit is a high-level plan of urgent measures that governments and stakeholders need to implement to limit global average temperature increase in the 21st century to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The COP28 summary document contains targets and recommendations for the participants to consider when developing an update of their national climate action plans within the framework of the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCS). The next country NDCS must be submitted at least 12 months before CP30, which is scheduled to take place in 2025 in Brazil [6].

Bakus Great Green Capacity and Plans

Azerbaijans share in global greenhouse gas emissions is 0.15%. Nevertheless, RA is fully committed to making a tangible contribution to international climate change mitigation efforts. Azerbaijan is an active participant in regional environmental projects and a party to a number of international agreements aimed at CO2 emissions reduction. For years the country has given due consideration to environmental matters. As early as in 1997, recognizing the relevance and importance of the issue, the national leader of the Azerbaijani people Heydar Aliyev established the State Commission on Climate Change.

At present Bakus climate agenda is manifested through the «Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development» strategy currently under implementation. One of the priorities set forth in the document is a clean environment and a country of «green growth».

It should be noted that Azerbaijan has declared 2024 the Year of Solidarity for a Green World.

As part of international climate protection efforts, RA has committed to achieve a 35% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 and a 40% reduction by 2050 against the 1990 level.

In order to address climate change consequences, Baku implements measures aimed at environmental enhancement, forests and greenbelts restoration expansion; the country is implementing pilot energy efficiency projects, including those which involve thrifty lighting, digital management of big city utilities sector, low-emission transport, innovative municipal transport solutions, implementation of low-carbon, environmentally friendly industrial technologies, better waste handling, etc. 

According to UN data, the largest contribution to global climate change comes from the use of fossil fuels, which account for over 75% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and nearly 90% of carbon dioxide emissions. In this regard, increasing the share of Renewable Energy Resources (RES) in total electric power generation should be a top priority of any individual country addressing climate change.

The energy sector accounts for around 70% of Azerbaijans air emissions, so great emphasis is made on renewable energy. The country is rich in renewable energy sources, their total capacity approaching 200 GW. The potential capacity of the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea alone is estimated at 157 GW, 20 times the combined capacity of all power plants currently in operation.

The liberated territories within the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions, currently undergoing rehabilitation, possess a great power generation potential. There are plans to transform those areas, which sustained a serious environmental damage during the decades of Armenian occupation, into a net-zero emissions zone. 

Over the last few years Azerbaijan has made significant progress in promoting green energy. In Quarter 1 of 2022, foundations were laid for the first pilot RES projects implemented in cooperation with leading international renewable energy companies.

In the autumn of 2023 the Garadagh Solar PV Plant, the largest in the Caspian region and the CIS, was commissioned with an installed capacity of 230 MW. It has the potential of producing 500 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, thereby reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 200 thousand tons a year. The plant was built at the expense of foreign investment worth $262 million. The Garadagh Solar PV Plant is the first industrial-scale solar project realized in RA with foreign investment. Construction was performed by Masdar Company of the United Arab Emirates.

Construction is underway of the 240 MW Khizi-Absheron wind power plant in a Baku suburb. The contractor is ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia. The project cost is $300 mln, its commissioning is scheduled for 2025. The power plant is expected to generate 1 bn kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to meet the demand of some 300 thousand households.

In early June, RA launched three new green projects: the 445 MW Bilasuvar and the 315 MW Neftchala solar power plants, and the 240 MW Absheron-Garadagh wind farm. The three projects totaling nearly $1bn in investment value are being implemented by the Masdar Company referred to earlier. By 2030 it plans to generate up to 10 GW of clean energy in Azerbaijan.

Apart from Masdar and ACWA Power, Azerbaijans green energy market attracted leading energy companies from other countries including USA, China, Türkiye, UK, Germany, France, and Australia. According to the Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Baku has already signed letters of intent and memoranda of understanding with foreign investors concerning generation of 10 GW of electricity from RES.

RA is currently planning to lay the foundation for two more solar facilities in East Zangezur in cooperation with BP (UK) and Nobel Energy (Türkiye). This announcement was made at the recent Baku Energy Forum by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Parviz Shakhbazov. According to Shakhbazov, by 2027, while in the first phase of partnership with energy companies, Azerbaijan intends to implement new renewable energy projects with the total capacity of 2 GW, thereby increasing the RES share in the countrys power balance to 33%.

It bears reminding that the strategy «Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development» currently under implementation provides for increasing the share of renewable energy in total energy production from 17% to 24% in 2025 and to 30% in 2030. The countrys green energy capacity will therefore grow at an accelerated pace.

As the share of RES generation increases, Azerbaijan will also have a good opportunity to produce green and blue hydrogen with a profit. This may become realistic by mid- 2030s [7]. It is expected that by 2037 Azerbaijan, jointly with international energy companies, will be able to install around 19 GW of capacity to produce and export green electric power, hydrogen and green ammonia.

With the same goals in view, preparatory work has been started for the construction of the Black Sea Green Energy Corridor that will connect the power systems of Georgia and Romania. The 1,000 MW transmission line, to be laid on the Black Sea bottom, will be used to export RES-generated power from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Europe. Another green energy supply line from Azerbaijan will be built along the Nakhichevan-Türkiye-Europe route.

Baku to Become Hub of the World

The choice of Azerbaijan as the host country for COP29 is perceived by Baku as a major diplomatic success and a sign of undisputed confidence in the countrys environmental agenda and its contribution to the climate-related efforts on the part of the international community.

Note that Azerbaijan already has substantial and valuable experience in hosting different kinds of major international events and forums. As an important transport hub with an advanced international airport and up-to-date infrastructure, the capital of Azerbaijan has repeatedly proven to be a perfect venue for large-scale events.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had stated before that the forthcoming climate conference is one of the most prestigious international events as it is on a par with the UN General Assembly in terms of country representation.

Indeed, in November 2024 delegates from nearly 200 countries will come together in Baku for two weeks, the city thus becoming the hub of the world. From 70 to 80 thousand foreign guests are expected to visit Azerbaijan during the summit period.

Speaking recently at the opening ceremony of the Baku Energy Week, President Ilham Aliyev reiterated that Azerbaijan as the COP29 host country is well aware of the benefits and challenges associated with this demanding task not just in terms of organizational issues but also in terms of actual results.

On the organizational side, early in 2024 Ilham Aliyev issued a special order appointing Mukhtar Babayev, the Azerbaijan Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, to be president of the 29th session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties. He was authorized to organize a team responsible for COP29 preparation and presidency.

Addressing the audience at the first press conference on the climate summit in April, 29 president said that, within its presidency and summit host mandate, Azerbaijan will demonstrate continuous activity towards the enhancement of global solidarity in matters of climate change.

Mukhtar Babayev then remarked that the COP29 presidium team intended to visit different regions of the world including Africa, small island states of the Caribbean, Central Asia, Europe and North America in order to hear all viewpoints. Babayev pointed out that Azerbaijan is determined to act in a fair manner and consider the needs of all parties, so that the Baku conference would be a success story for everyone.

Climate summit preparation has entered an active phase. As the work proceeds, RA is analyzing experience of other countries that have hosted COP before, while also referring to its own experience in holding large-scale international events [8].

During the recent 60th session of UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies in Bonn (Germany), which is one of the key preparation stages for the Baku global climate summit, the COP29 Operating Company presented essential information concerning event preparation.

In the course of the Bonn conference, the 29 Presidency Team conducted a large series of substantive talks with various negotiation groups. In particular, the 29 president Mukhtar Babayev met with the UN task force, representatives of the UN office in Azerbaijan, UNFCCC, UNDP and UNEP, to discuss coordinated efforts to promote global action against climate change.

The Bonn conference participants discussed, among other things, draft versions of the documents to be adopted at the Baku summit.

As is well known, one of the key items on the COP29 agenda is anti-global warming funding, a traditional discussion point at UN climate summits. The finance goal set in Copenhagen in 2009 is expected to be revised at COP29 based on updated calculations.

The reader will recall that at the 15th UNFCCC session developed countries committed to mobilizing climate finance for developing countries and set themselves the goal of reaching $100 bn per year by 2020. However, as has been demonstrated in official reports, the goal was not attained.

Still, wealthy countries continue to promise financial assistance as part of their efforts to counter global warming. More specifically, the participants of COP27, held in November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, decided to set up a specialized Loss and Damage Fund to assist developing countries that are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change [9]. And on the very first day of the Dubai climate summit an agreement was announced making the fund operational. As of now, all contributions are made on a voluntary basis.

Within the framework of COP28, the Fund pooled about $800 mln, nowhere near enough to cover the annual damage from climate change, which is estimated at $400 bn. The countries that announced their contributions to the Fund while in Dubai are UAE, Germany, Italy, France, UK, USA and China. Notably, the latter two, while being the worlds largest emitters, allocated a mere $17.5 mln and $10 mln, respectively.

Analysts at World Resources Institute (USA) estimated that by 2030 the attainment of global climate goals will require at least $4.3 trn to be raised by international climate funds every year.

What Can Azerbaijan Offer and Gain at COP29?

Note that in the recent years, UN climate conferences have been held in hydrocarbon producing countries. Following Egypt and UAE, Azerbaijan will be the third major fossil fuel producer to host a global climate summit. Next in line is Brazil, which also exports oil and gas to the world market. Analysts view this trend as the UNs attempt to entice fossil fuel exporting countries to join the «climate party», and also to close the gap between oil and gas producing countries and the green-minded ones.

Looking back, one of the hottest discussion points at the Dubai climate conference was global shift away from coal, oil and gas. In fact, on the first day of COP28 all the 27 countries of the European Union and 79 members of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States issued a joint statement arguing, among other things, for a global phase out of unabated fossil fuels as a measure to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Proponents of the green agenda insisted on unbending commitments to phase out fossil fuel and to set peak emission levels by 2025. But a large number of countries whose economic development hinges on the use of hydrocarbons spoke against such an uncompromising solution, proposing instead a less radical, phased shift away from unabated fossil fuel.

On its part, the United Nations announced that the final agreement adopted by the Dubai climate conference signals «beginning of the end» of the fossil fuel era.

As regards Azerbaijan, it stands, as many other oil and gas producing countries do, for a gradual transition to full climate neutrality over a longer period. This approach adopted by Baku is explained by its determination to avoid painful consequences for the national economy and energy security. This is why in the coming decades RA is planning not only to continue hydrocarbons production but also to increase investment in oil and gas projects. To a great extent this choice is dictated by a dynamic growth in demand for Azerbaijani oil and gas from European countries, providing a source of sustainable national budget revenue.

That said, Azerbaijan is positioned as a successful case of an oil and gas exporting country that puts proceeds from hydrocarbon sale to efficient use, in particular by investing them in its green agenda [10].

Within this context, Azerbaijan is determined to pursue its economy model which relies on long-term benefits from natural resources and products through their reuse or processing [11]. Baku officials believe that this circular economy model will enable the country to counter pollution, resource depletion and biodiversity loss as the key environmental impacts. Besides, it will underlie sustainable production and consumption models, facilitate the achievement of the UN climate-related sustainable development indicators while also boosting innovation and new business activities.

«Many argue that an oil and gas country a priori cannot be a leader in the environmental sphere, in environmental protection and in countering global climate change, but the upcoming event is a good chance for us to demonstrate the fallacy of these opinions», COP29 President Mukhtar Babayev believes. He pointed out that in this respect, Azerbaijan plays the role of a bridge between developed and developing countries, and can serve as a model for other oil and gas producing nations.

Meanwhile, speaking at the recent climate conference in Bonn, Yalchin Rafiyev, Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan and chief negotiator of COP29, said that the international climate community has great expectations from the forthcoming event in Baku. He expressed confidence that it will be one of the most successful climate summits that were ever held.

Taking into consideration Azerbaijans achievements in energy transition and countering climate change, holding COP29 in Baku is consistent with two goals, Ilham Shaban, Director of the Center for Oil Studies, believes [12]. First, conference participants may use the Azerbaijan case as a model for developing their own phased green energy transition plans. Second, speaking from the point of view of oil and gas supplier to the world market, Azerbaijan can inform the world of possible implications of a radical renunciation of fossil fuel, suggesting instead a more moderate and phased energy transition.

Holding COP29 in Azerbaijan helps solve a number of local problems [13]. For example, within the framework of the forum Baku plans to strengthen cooperation on the green agenda with international donors including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and development which are involved in a number of projects currently underway in RA. It is planned that the companies SOCAR and Azercosmos will come forward with their cooperation programs on the COP29 green track. In addition, within the framework of COP29, business forums will be held aimed at attracting the private sector, civil society and investors to climate projects. Obviously, the arrival in Baku of such a great number of foreign guests will contribute to a significant inflow of foreign tourists.

The international climate conference in Baku will undoubtedly make a great contribution to fostering environmental culture in the society. As part of its summit preparation effort, the COP29 Azerbaijan Operating Company has announced the commencement of the COP29 Academy. Its main purpose is to actively involve youth in fostering environmental awareness and anti-climate change activities.

Conclusions

Summing up, it can be noted that over the last few years Azerbaijan has been consistently strengthening its positions as a key player in the energy, transport and logistics sectors, both in the South Caucasus region and worldwide. COP29 will enable the Republic of Azerbaijan to position itself as an active supporter of the global climate agenda; that will further enhance the countrys international prestige, thus making it even more attractive to investors.

By entering a bid to host the UN climate conference, Azerbaijan underscores its commitment to environmentally sustainable development and international cooperation. The 2024 global climate summit in Baku will enable Azerbaijan to showcase its pro-climate achievements to the international community. Moreover, the event will give an additional impetus to the development of the countrys renewable energy sector, thereby attracting even more investment into green projects.

The forthcoming 29th session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Azerbaijan will definitely play a major role in finding effective solutions to pressing environmental issues in the Caspian Sea basin.

Having confirmed his intention to attend the Baku climate summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he expected COP29 «to be a moment of change, in the sense that there will be a global recognition that we are moving towards an abyss» [14].

«We stand at a critical juncture in history. I would like to see some decisive measures taken at this conference in Baku, but still within the framework of climate justice; considering the interests of developing countries that do not contribute to climate change but suffer greatly from it. Decisions that reverse the trend of climate change while also responding to the needs of those developing countries experiencing dramatic consequences and in need of resources will be a significant step forward», UN Secretary General said, adding that «developed countries must commit more effectively and contribute to addressing the problems faced by developing countries under the pressure of climate change».

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3. Scientist report a dangerous Caspian sea level decline. RIA Novosti, 23.12.2020. https://ria.ru/20201223/kaspiy-1590587703.html

4. Sharm el-Sheikh conference: What you need to know to find your way at the UN climate event. United Nations, 28.10.2023. https://news.un.org/ru/story/2022/10/1434097

5. Paris Agreement. United Nations Organization, https://www.un.org/ru/climatechange/paris-agreement#

6. Why the Global Stocktake is Important for Climate Action this Decade. United Nations Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/topics/global-stocktake/about-the-global-stocktake/why-the-global-stocktake-is-important-for-climate-action-this-decade

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8. Presentation on COP29 preparation progress took place in Bonn. AZERTAC, 07.06.2024. https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/prezentaciya_o_podgotovke_k_cop29_sostoyalas_v_bonne-3045462

9. Will the World Bank make good on the loss and damage fund? ODI, 08.12.2023. https://odi.org/en/insights/will-the-world-bank-make-good-on-the-loss-and-damage-fund/

10. Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Euronews TV channel. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan website, 02.03.2024. https://president.az/ru/articles/view/64972

11. COP29: Azerbaijans model to address climate change. AZERTAC, 25.01.2024. https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/cop29_azerbaidzhanskaya_model_v_borbe_s_izmeneniem_klimata-2896636

12. COP29 in Azerbaijan: What is the purpose of the conference, and how the Republic will benefit. SPUTNIK Azerbaijan, 15.12.2023. https://az.sputniknews.ru/20231215/cop29-v-azerbaydzhane-v-chem-smysl-konferentsii-i-chto-ona-dast-respublike-461326793.html

13. COP29 Demonstration of Azerbaijan's «green» vector. CALIBER.AZ, 16.04.2024. https://caliber.az/post/234014/

14. UN Secretary General: COP29 in Baku must take decisive measures or the World will be at the abyss. TASS, 28.06.2024. https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/21226359