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A seasoned professional in the oil industry will be heading the upcoming Cop climate change summit.
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A seasoned professional in the oil industry will be heading the upcoming Cop climate change summit.

The upcoming round of United Nations discussions, known as Cop29, aimed at addressing the urgent issue of climate change, will be headed by a seasoned individual from the oil and gas sector.

Mukhtar Babayev, the minister of ecology and natural resources in Azerbaijan, has been chosen as the designated president for the upcoming Cop29 climate talks in November, which will be held in Azerbaijan.

Prior to his involvement in the political realm of a dictator-led nation in Western Asia, which was formerly a republic within the Soviet Union, Babayev dedicated 26 years of his career to working at the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (Socar).

Those who closely follow the Cop process will notice similarities between the selection of Sultan Al Jaber and his dual role as both chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the summit’s presiding figure during last year’s event in Dubai.

Critics are already questioning the dedication to reducing the use of fossil fuels in Azerbaijan following Babayev’s appointment. The country heavily relies on oil and gas, which made up 92.5% of its export earnings in 2020 according to the US government’s International Trade Administration.

Babayev has previously worked in environmental conservation, serving as Socar’s vice-president for ecology for three years. During this time, he was responsible for managing efforts to clean up contaminated soils in Azerbaijan. The country is currently facing numerous significant environmental issues, including decades of damage caused by petrochemical companies operating there for over 160 years.

Babayev was born in Baku during the time when Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union. After serving in the Soviet military, he pursued a degree in political science at Moscow State University and then studied foreign economic relations at Azerbaijan State University of Economics.

In 1994, he became a member of Socar and held positions in foreign economic relations and marketing until he was selected as the company’s ecology expert in 2008. A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks stated that upon his appointment, Babayev organized the inaugural ecology conference in Azerbaijan.

He stated that in the role of environmental responsibility, remediation is a collective goal and ethical obligation for all citizens of Azerbaijan. However, he also acknowledged that a decrease in oil prices could hinder these efforts.

During a later meeting, US diplomats stated that he expressed his goal to alter the mindset of Azerbaijanis regarding their obligations towards the environment. He even made a joke about how his new position as first vice-president of Socar made him and the company enemies.

According to reports, he made it clear that his main responsibility was to alter Socar’s approach to the environment, while also continuing to advance Azerbaijan’s oil sector.

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In 2010, Babayev joined the political sphere and became a member of parliament for the dominant New Azerbaijan party, which has been victorious in all national elections since 1993. In 2018, he was designated as the minister for ecology, using his position to criticize supposed environmental harm caused by Armenians residing in areas claimed by Azerbaijan.

The UN’s executive secretary for climate change, Simon Stiell, expressed his approval of the selection and urged his team to collaborate with Babayev and Yalchin Rafiyev, the lead negotiator, to achieve a successful Cop29.

The government of Azerbaijan has been asked to provide a statement.

Source: theguardian.com