COP29 to Utilise Green Issues to Ease Global Tensions & Prevent Climate-Fuelled Conflicts

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This year’s UN climate conference could ask nations to observe a “COP truce” and focus on preventing future conflicts charged by climate change, COP29 host country Azerbaijan has said.

After an intense COP28 that delivered and underwhelmed in equal parts, the UN climate summit this year will use environmental issues to call for cooperation and peace among warring nations.

COP29, to be held in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, could see nations being asked to observe a “COP truce” in the style of the Olympics. During the Olympic games, most governments agree on a truce over conflicts they’re engaged in to promote peace and safety for athletes and spectators alike.

Like its processor, this year’s summit will be held amid the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Gaza wars and worsening geopolitical conflicts, but Azerbaijan’s national security and foreign policy adviser said COP29 could be an engine for peace by helping countries find a common ground in the fight against climate change.

“We are discussing with different partners about a Cop truce, like in the Olympics,” Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the president Ilham Aliyev, told the Observer. But he acknowledged that this won’t be an easy negotiation. “It is at an early stage of thinking. It will require additional consultations and discussion.”

A decision brought on by a peacemaking deal

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Courtesy: Aris Messinis/AFP

The battle to find a host for COP29 itself was a contentious issue, with Russia’s war on Ukraine complicating matters. UN rules dictated that this year’s summit be held in eastern Europe, but the Russian government has opposed the naming of an EU member state as a host – the bloc had sanctioned the country for its invasion. Russia blocked Bulgaria’s bid, leaving Armenia and Azerbaijan as likely contenders.

But these neighbouring countries are historical rivals, and had been locked in a conflict over disputed territories and ethnic differences for over 35 years. After the Soviet Union broke up, hostilities between Azerbaijan (which has a Muslim majority) and Armenia (a Christian majority nation) were resolved partially in a ceasefire in 1994.

There was a persisting underlying tension, however, which boiled over in 2020 and resulted in widespread violence. With each country accusing the other of ethnic cleansing, it led to the deaths of more than 7,000 soldiers and civilians, as well as the displacement of tens of thousands of people.

But last year, on day eight of COP28 in Dubai, Armenia agreed to withdraw its bid to host COP29 and confirmed it won’t veto its neighbour’s bid. And 48 hours later, Azerbaijan was named as the host.

It marked the first gesture of support between the two countries, which have since negotiated a peace deal that came into effect on January 1. (Although disputes remain over the status of some detainees.)

“Azerbaijan continues and will exert additional efforts to make Cop yet another success story with regard to peace, and to make COP29 a COP of peace alongside the climate action issue,” Hajiyev said. “We are working on the advancement of the peace agenda.”

He added that the impact of the climate crisis on food and water shortages and migration could spark border issues and add to the pressure on countries. “Security isn’t about hardware – it has many elements, and you cannot deny climate action, environment change or environmental problems [are relevant to national security and peace],” he explained. “We are affected by climate change – it’s part of national security and global security.”

COP29 host not free from controversies

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Azerbaijan’s environment minister and COP29 president Mukhtar Babayev is a fossil fuel industry veteran | Courtesy: Mike Muzurakis/IISD/ENB

Hajiyev said the experience with Armenia is what resulted in Azerbaijan focusing on global peace at the summit: “Our approach to the peace agenda is living by example.”

But there is some concern about binding the issues of climate change and national security too closely together, as certain UN experts fear ill feelings over conflicts could spill into climate negotiations. Keeping the two issues separate is viewed as potentially safer. Plus, highlighting peace also highlights Azerbaijan’s war with Armenia and its highly criticised human rights record.

Former Irish president Mary Robinson, who previously served as a UN climate envoy and high commissioner for human rights, said she welcomed the peace focus, pointing to precedents from climate activists who link their work with conflict healing.

“I think the idea is a good idea. If we could make more of climate and security and peace, that would be a good step,” she said. But she also expressed concern over Azerbaijan’s stance. “I’m not sure the peace with Armenia is a perfect peace, to say the least. There are very big issues. There are political prisoners, I am part of a campaign to try to get them released. We should hold [Azerbaijan] to account for their own human rights record.”

When Azerbaijan was finally announced as the host of COP29, many bemoaned the fact that the world’s premier climate summit would be held in a petrostate. The country, one of the top 10 oil states globally, is significantly expanding its gas production, which would amount to emissions that equal Russia’s annual emissions. Just last month, in a speech in Berlin, Aliyev called the nation’s fossil fuel reserves “a gift of the gods”.

COP28 was mired in similar controversy. Held in the UAE and helmed by the head of its national oil company, the conference had the largest number of fossil fuel lobbyists ever, which numbered over 2,450 (four times higher than the year before). And the summit’s aforementioned president, Sultan Al Jaber, attracted widespread criticism after suggesting that there’s no science connecting a fossil fuel phaseout – which the summit failed to commit to – with climate change.

It was also labelled as the first food-focused COP, but the UN FAO’s final text for aligning the food system with the 1.5°C goal did not outline a need to reduce animal agriculture, which accounts for the majority of the food system’s emissions. The UN’s climate summit needs an improvement on multiple fronts – how Azerbaijan, which has also appointed a state oil company veteran as its COP29 chief, tackles fossil fuels and food will be closely watched this year.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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