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COP29 Host Azerbaijan Plans to Raise Gas Production by a Third Over Next Decade

The country has also appointed a former state oil company executive to serve as president of the UN conference.

Environmental activists protest during annual general meeting of the Dutch ING bank on April 23, 2019, in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Azerbaijan, the country slated to host the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, has plans to increase its gas production by a third during the next 10 years.

The findings, released by Global Witness Monday, build on concerns about how effectively an Azerbaijan-hosted COP29 will tackle the climate crisis, given the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and its decision to appoint a former state oil company executive as president of the conference.

“Drug dealers don’t fix drug addictions, and petrostates won’t fix the climate crisis,” Dominic Eagleton, senior campaigner at Global Witness, said in a statement. “As we hurtle towards climate collapse, we’re now being asked to put our future in the hands of Azerbaijan, a petrostate that’s propped up by oil supermajors and is massively increasing its gas production.”

Global Witness’ analysis was based on data from business intelligence agency Rystad Energy. According to the data, fossil fuel companies including BP, TotalEnergies, Iran’s national oil company, and Russia’s largest private oil company Lukoil will invest $41.4 billion in Azerbaijani gas over the next decade, with just those four companies alone spending $16.8 billion. The full $41.1 billion would be enough to install more than 1,170 offshore wind turbines.

At the same time, fossil fuel companies will extract 411 billion cubic meters (bcm) from Azerbaijan’s gas fields over the next 10 years, which would release 781 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s more than double what the United Kingdom burns in a year.

All told, Azerbaijan’s gas fields are slated to increase their output by a third from 37 bcm in 2024 to 49 bcm in 2033. Yet scientists have warned that the next decade is crucial for rapidly reducing fossil-fuel use in order to preserve the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that, to preserve a 50% shot at the 1.5°C target, greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 43% of 2019 levels by 2030 and 60% by 2035.

The news from Azerbaijan comes after climate campaigners said the outcome of COP28, hosted by the United Arab Emirates and presided over by the head of the country’s state oil company, resulted in a deal full of loopholes for the fossil fuel industry that stopped short of promising to phase out fossil fuels.

“What a sick joke,” climate system science expert Paul Beckwith posted on social media in response to the Global Witness data. “COP29 is already a farce like COP28.”

Eagleton added: “We need climate policymaking to be run by climate leaders, not countries with a vested interest in keeping the world hooked on oil and gas.”

There are also human rights concerns related to Azerbaijan’s fossil fuels. Global Witness told The Guardian that just two BP-operated oil and gas projects had earned the country more than four times what it spent on the military since 2020. Some have said that Azerbaijan’s fossil fuel earnings are being used to fund its military campaign to reincorporate the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. A September invasion forced more than half of the territory’s population to flee into Armenia along a single road, in an exodus visible from space, as the “PBS NewsHour” reported at the time. The Azerbaijani government is also generally known for being corrupt and repressive, according to Global Witness.

Despite this, the European Union has looked to Azerbaijan as a substitute for Russian gas following its invasion of Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed a deal with Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev in 2023 to double the country’s gas exports to Europe by 2027. In December, Aliyev said the country was “confidently moving toward the goal,” according to The Guardian.

At the same time, Azerbaijani fossil fuels are also helping to finance Russia’s war in Ukraine through the company Lukoil, which owns a 19.99% stake in the country’s Shah Deniz field as well as a share of the pipeline that moves gas from the field to Europe, Global Witness said.

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