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Azerbaijan’s Balancing Act: Championing Fossil Fuels amid Climate Talks

Photo: Reuters

As Azerbaijan prepares to host the United Nations COP29 climate summit this November, President Ilham Aliyev made a statement on Friday that is sure to stir debate: the oil-rich nation plans to defend the right of fossil fuel producers to continue investing in oil and gas sectors. This declaration comes at a pivotal moment when global efforts are intensifying to mitigate the effects of climate change through reduced carbon emissions. The president’s stance highlights the complex challenge that nations like Azerbaijan face: reconciling their economic reliance on fossil fuels with the pressing need to address the climate crisis. With the summit convening nearly 200 countries, the focus is not only on ambitious climate action but also on securing the necessary finance to support such endeavors. Azerbaijan, sitting at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, boasts significant oil and gas reserves. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on these resources, and energy exports remain a cornerstone of its financial well-being. However, the nation is also experiencing the direct impacts of climate change, with rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and increasing occurrences of extreme weather events.

The president’s remarks underscore a broader tension within global climate policy: the demand for fossil fuels remains robust, especially in developing economies that are fueling their growth through traditional energy sources. At the same time, the international community has recognized the urgency of transitioning to cleaner energy to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The forthcoming climate summit is expected to be a nexus of dialogue around these very issues. Azerbaijan’s role as the host country grants it a unique platform to voice the concerns and perspectives of oil and gas-producing nations. The country can also leverage this opportunity to showcase any progress it has made in terms of energy diversification, investment in renewable energy, and climate adaptation measures.
However, defending the fossil fuel industry’s right to invest could be seen as at odds with the summit’s overarching goals. Critics argue that continued investment in oil and gas infrastructure locks in carbon emissions for decades to come, undermining efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Proponents of fossil fuels counter that energy security, economic stability, and a just transition for workers in the sector must be taken into account.
The president’s statement ahead of COP29 sets the stage for a nuanced debate on how the world can transition to a low-carbon economy without destabilizing countries that are heavily reliant on fossil fuel income. This will require candid discussions on innovative financing mechanisms, technology transfer, and capacity building to assist nations in leapfrogging to sustainable energy systems.
Moreover, the energy transition must be inclusive, ensuring that vulnerable populations are not left behind. Azerbaijan and other similar nations will likely push for a balanced approach that recognizes the realities of energy markets and the need for gradual shifts in investment and infrastructure.
The eyes of the world will be on Azerbaijan as it hosts COP29. The country’s ability to navigate these complex issues and facilitate constructive dialogue will be critical. The summit presents a chance for a deeper understanding of the multifaceted climate change challenge and the exploration of solutions that harmonize environmental imperatives with economic realities.
As November approaches, Azerbaijan is poised to be at the epicenter of one of the most crucial global conversations of our time. The outcome of this summit may very well shape the trajectory of international climate policy and the future of energy production for years to come. 
By Sanjida Jannat

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