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COP29: Why Azerbaijan is seeking partnerships with countries with limited connections and partnerships


President William Ruto shakes hand with President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria during the Launch of Africa Green Industrialization Initiative at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. [PCS]

Azerbaijan stands on the cusp of a historic moment as we prepare to host COP29 this November in Baku. It is with great honor that we accept this responsibility, recognizing it not only as a testament of trust by the international community but also as a pivotal opportunity to drive meaningful change in the fight against climate change. We are acutely aware of the immense responsibility that rests on our shoulders as the host country – and that time is of the essence. Most host countries are appointed 14 -15 months in advance of the Summit; we won our bid with less than a year to go.

Central to our approach is the principle of inclusivity. COP29 is not just for a select few: it is for all of us and by all of us. Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. By ensuring that diverse voices and perspectives are heard and respected, we can forge stronger alliances and achieve more impactful outcomes in the battle against climate change than we ever could alone.

Reflecting on the progress made at COP28, particularly in areas such as finance, adaptation, and addressing climate-related loss and damage, we acknowledge that there is still much work to be done. While traditional development aid plays a crucial role, it is insufficient to meet the escalating financial demands of climate action. As if to underscore this harsh reality, recent months have seen record floods and droughts devastating Africa, resulting in fatalities and infrastructure damage. While Kenya mourns victims of the deluge near Mai Mahiu, the country’s President William Ruto led African Leaders in calling on rich countries to commit record contributions to the International Development Association (IDA) – a World Bank institution that offers low-interest loans to developing countries to help tackle complex challenges including climate change.

It is indeed imperative that we, as a global community, undergo a fundamental shift in our approach and mindset to effectively address such challenges. One step Azerbaijan has taken is to declare 2024 ‘Green World Solidarity Year’ a presidential order that not only underscores our commitment to the global fight, but also intensifies our focus on fostering partnerships at the national, regional, and international levels. The Negotiating Team of the COP29 Presidency is actively engaged with a diverse array of partners and negotiating groups, recognizing that collective action is paramount to success.

In our pursuit of unity, we seek to bridge divides between the Global South and the Global West. COP29 must be a force multiplier and integrator, bringing together countries that have historically had limited connections and partnerships. One such example is the burgeoning partnership between Azerbaijan and Kenya. While our countries have enjoyed good relations in the past, we recognize the need to strengthen our collaboration, particularly in light of Kenya's pivotal role in addressing climate change. That is why Mukhtar Babayev, President of COP29, met with President Ruto on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly in March.

Kenya's proactive initiatives, including hosting the first-ever African Climate Summit and President Ruto's leadership of a special committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, exemplify the kind of bold action needed on the global stage. The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Marsabit County, which is the biggest wind farm in Africa and produces enough renewable energy to power one million homes, serves as a shining model to follow for other nations across the developing world as they look to undertake their own green transition. It should come as no surprise that Ali Mohammed – Kenya's Special Envoy on Climate was recently elected Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN). Azerbaijan is excited to join forces with Kenya so that, together, we can amplify our impact and drive meaningful progress both in the lead-up to COP29 and beyond.

The urgency of climate action cannot be overstated. The cost of inaction is considerable, with projections suggesting that a 3°C increase in global temperatures could result in a staggering $27 trillion in damages by 2100. Conversely, the cost of action is substantial but necessary, estimated to reach $4 trillion per annum by 2030. Having worked for the UN in the past, I have witnessed the devastating impact of climate change firsthand. Floods and droughts have become increasingly destructive and come in faster and faster cycles that are beyond unsustainable. Billions are spent on emergency responses to save lives once disaster strikes. Tragically, however, I have seen these efforts come too little too late more than once. Much more needs to be done to halt the pace of climate breakdown instead of simply dealing with its consequences.

Events like COP29 or the recent sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) are important examples of how the nations of the world can coordinate their environmental protection efforts in a collective way. The leadership shown by the United Nations Environment Programme in advancing the global environmental agenda is commendable, and we must continue to build upon this momentum. The COP Presidencies ‘Troika’, launched at COP28, which connects the three presidencies of COPs 28, 29 and 30, was a landmark achievement in ensuring such momentum would and could be maintained.

But this isn’t simply a mission for Kenya and Azerbaijan: the countries of the developed world need to do their part by doing more to provide Kenya –and, indeed, Africa more broadly– with greater access to funding, technology transfer, and capacity-building support to enhance its climate change efforts. Furthermore, if we are to succeed in limiting global temperature rises to below 1.5°C, we must recognise that a holistic approach is needed when addressing this most complex of challenges.

The author is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Republic of Kenya

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