Conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Armenia and Azerbaijan have stopped the group of Eastern European nations from picking the host of the Cop29 climate talks next November.
At a group meeting in the German city of Bonn today, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Armenia each made the case for why they should host the annual climate summit which rotates between the United Nations’ five regions each year.
But, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, the group could not come to a decision and postponed their choice until a later date.
The uncertainty gives the eventual host less time to prepare for the crunch summit. The host for Cop30, Brazil, has already been effectively decided. The decision for Cop29 must be made by Cop28 in November.
Bulgaria’s bid was backed by the Eastern European members of the European Union (EU), of which it is a member state. But Russia’s representative said twice that they would block any candidate from the EU.
The EU is providing diplomatic, financial and military support to the government of Ukraine in their battle to remove the Russian military from their territory.
The two other candidates – Azerbaijan and Armenia – fought a six-week war against each other in 2020 over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Tensions between the two sides are still high.
Although Russia supported Armenia in that war, Azerbaijan is not in the EU. One source with knowledge of the talks said that the Central Asian nation could be a compromise between the EU and Russia.
Any choice would require the consensus of all the group’s 23 members though and would have to be approved by all countries at Cop28, which is usually just a formality.
If the group is unable to choose, then a group of global climate diplomats called the bureau tries to find a solution.
This could involve a government from outside the region offering to host the talks. When Chile was unable to host the Cop25 talks in 2019 after social unrest, Spain stepped in to host them instead.
Although it’s not in the Eastern Europe group, the Australian government has previously indicated an interest in hosting Cop29 next year, swapping turns with Eastern Europe.
This would mean Australia could host within the current Labor government’s term and not risk the return of a more climate-sceptic Liberal government by the next time it is the turn of Australia’s group in 2026.
In recent months though, Australia appears to have put its plans for Cop29 on the back burner and yesterday indicated it was bidding for the Cop31 talks.
Turkiye, another member of Australia’s Western Europe and Others group, is also hoping to host Cop31 and could consider stepping in for Eastern Europe for Cop29.
This article was corrected on 7 June. It originally incorrectly said there were four UN regional groups, whereas there is in fact five.