The Eastern European group of countries has chosen Baku, Azerbaijan to host next year’s Cop29 climate talks, according to two sources in the Cop28 meeting room where the decision was made.
Because of conflict in the region, the group took much longer than usual to come to a decision. On Thursday, Armenia dropped its opposition to Azerbaijan’s bid as part of peace talks between the two.
Russia blocked any European Union member from hosting, which scuppered a Bulgarian bid. Serbia, Moldova and Armenia were also in contention.
E3G negotiations analyst Tom Evans described it as an “unusual and unexpected” choice because Azerbaijan “doesn’t have a long track record of diplomacy at the [UN climate arm]”.
Azerbaijan gets two-thirds of its revenue from oil and gas, one of the highest percentages in the world and more than the Cop28 host – the United Arab Emirates.
The country has been ruled for 20 years by Ilham Aliyev, who took over as president from his father. According to Human Rights Watch, the government had at least 30 political dissidents in its prisons in 2022.
The campaign group said that restrictive laws continued to impede nongovernmental organizations from operating independently and that there are restrictions on media and systemic torture of prisoners.
The government has been keen in recent years to host high-profile international events, bringing the Europa League football final and Formula One Grand Prix to its capital Baku.
In 2020, Azerbaijan and its neighbour Armenia fought a six week war which killed thousands over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Last year, the government of Azerbaijan hired a British public relations firm to publicise their accusations that the government of Armenia had damaged the environment of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Experts told Climate Home News at the time that these claims were misleading, as the forests were depleted faster after Azerbaijan took charge, and that they had an “element of propaganda” to them.