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11 Dec 2023

Joe Lo, Climate Home News

COP29: Former executive at Azerbaijan state-owned oil company appointed as COP29 president

"Azerbaijan appoint state oil company veteran as Cop29 president", 4 January 2024

"The government of Azerbaijan has appointed its environment minister Mukhtar Babayev to be the president of the Cop29 climate talks in Baku in November.

While Babayev will chair the talks, Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign minister Yalchin Rafiyev will be his lead negotiator, according to the Cop28 presidency.

Babayev spent 26 years at Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil and gas company Socar, where he tried to limit the company’s environmental damage, before becoming environment minister in 2018...

A Socar veteran

With Azerbaijan’s media severely restricted, there is not much information publicly available about Babayev other than his official ministry biography and leaked US diplomatic cables...

After Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union, he joined the newly-named State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) in 1992, where he stayed for 26 years.

After a stint in marketing, he was appointed the company’s vice-president of ecological affairs, which involved trying to reverse the environmental damage caused by the company...

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."