Azerbaijan has been announced as host of next year’s climate summit after tense negotiations.
Under UN rules, it was Eastern Europe’s turn to take over the rotating presidency, but the groups must decide unanimously on the host. Russia had blocked EU countries and Azerbaijan and Armenia blocked each other’s bids.
Bystanders began to worry about whether an agreement could be reached on a country that would be able to raise the money and facilities needed to host such a major conference. But Armenia withdrew its offer and agreed to support Azerbaijan.
Climate activists are likely to react to the news with concern, given the perception that the police are partly in the grip of fossil fuel interests. Like this year’s host country, the country of 10 million inhabitants on the border between Eastern Europe and Western Asia is economically dependent on fossil fuels: oil and gas production accounted for almost half of Azerbaijan’s GDP last year and more than 92.5% of export revenues. This is reported by the International Trade Administration of the US government.
Civil society organizations have also said that Azerbaijan has a poor human rights record. The Freedom Index, a ranking by a US-based NGO, ranks the country as ‘not free’. with a score of 9/100 on political rights and civil liberties. Svitilana Romanko of Razon Ukraine said: “Ilham Aliyev’s regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years and political opposition has been virtually eliminated.” She added: “This is becoming an extremely worrying trend where fossil fuels are not only being weaponized against humanity, which will certainly incite hostility among many countries ruled by petro dictators, but also home to police forces in those countries where human rights are forcibly suppressed.”
But some were relieved that a decision had been made. “It’s good that the uncertainty about who will host Cop29 is over. It means that plans can now be made that emerge from Cop28, for the key years 2024 and 2025, when new climate targets must be submitted by all countries,” said Kaveh Guilanpour, the vice-president of the Center for Climate and Climate. Energy Solutions.
Meanwhile, a dozen countries led by the Netherlands have announced a stronger crackdown on fossil fuel subsidies. Fossil fuels benefited from record subsidies of $13 million (£10.3 million) per minute in 2022, according to the International Monetary Funddespite being the main cause of the climate crisis.
At a press conference in Dubai, EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra said: “It is time to put an end to the anomaly of fossil fuel subsidies that are holding us back.”
Canadian Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault has called on countries to abolish subsidies sooner. “Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies around the world will ensure spending is in line with climate ambition.”
As the climate summit enters its final days, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will unveil its long-awaited intervention on Sunday on the future of agriculture in a 1.5 degrees Celsius world.
But the FAO roadmap is expected to be short on detail and high on ambition. The launch is likely to set out some of the key areas of work, but leaves the big issues for the future, with the promise of more detail at Cop29 and Cop30.
Working out the future of agriculture is a huge undertaking, but many people are already disappointed that the FAO seemed so reluctant to tackle it urgently. Stephanie Feldstein, director of population and sustainability at the US-based Center for Biological Diversity, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the FAO roadmap fails to express the urgency of reducing meat and dairy consumption and production to meet FAO objectives. Paris Climate Agreement. We cannot simply stand by and accept endless growth in a sector responsible for so much destruction to our climate, land, water, air and biodiversity. Unless we seriously tackle the excessive consumption of meat and dairy in rich countries, this road map is a dead end.”
The Cop28 The presidency is now working closely with two ministers to reach agreement on the most controversial aspects of the final decision. Britain will not be represented by Claire Coutinho, the British Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, but by its Minister of State Graham Stuart and by Steve Barclay, the British Secretary of State for the Environment. While the British negotiating team is widely admired for its skill and dedication, the absence of the leading minister for Britain has been noted. Many countries have told the Guardian that they are disappointed that a country that until recently was a strong climate champion and did a lot of good work behind the scenes in bringing countries together is now absent at a high level.
Useful was the issue of loss and damage addressed early onunlike last year’s Cop27 talks in Egypt, when the developed and developing countries were at a standoff until the rich world made a U-turn in the last days.
But a loss and damage fund is not the only help developing countries need to tackle the climate crisis. Adaptation – how to make countries more resilient to extreme weather – has long been an under-discussed topic in these conversations, and developing countries are angry that rich countries have failed to provide sufficient financing for it. Most of the $100 billion a year in climate finance that should flow to the poor world will go to ‘mitigation’ – helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Poor countries have been calling for years to double the amount that goes to adjustment.
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, a Zambian who heads the African Negotiators Group, said: “We are in an adaptation emergency and our vulnerable population is suffering. The world must take action and take steps to close the adaptation gap with quality financing so that Africans do not fall behind. This must be central to the outcome of Cop28.”
While it may seem like there is not enough time left to bridge the huge gap between countries phasing out fossil fuels, it is unusual that the talks have reached such a crucial point when so much negotiating time remains is to go. There are four days from Saturday to Tuesday, where a lot can happen. When it comes to bridging the gap between countries that want to phase out fossil fuels and those that don’t, this is not enough time. But in terms of how negotiations could go wrong from here on out, four days is a nerve-wracking eternity. The crucial skill will be to prevent the phase-out option from being discarded by the countries that oppose it.
All eyes are on Saudi Arabia, which, as the Guardian revealed on Friday, has played a major role in efforts to unite OPEC countries to resist calls for phase-out. The host country, the United Arab Emirates, is a close ally of the Saudis. When the Guardian asked Sultan Al Jaber, the president of the police, on the eve of the talks what involvement he expected from the Saudis, he was confident, saying that the Saudi government would show “positivity, commitment and responsiveness to my cause and my had shown a call to action. …towards achieving the most ambitious climate action outcome at Cop28”.
He added: “They have worked together and come with ambition. They work together in a collaborative manner across all climate areas.”
As the conversations continue, Al Jaber’s job is to translate that positivity and engagement into tangible results.