Blood and Oil—How Azerbaijan Greenwashes Its Human Rights Record

By Stephan Pechdimaldji
Dec 20, 2023

As one of the leading symposiums on climate change, the United Nations Climate Change Conference has become one of the most important dates on the environmental calendar as countries from around the world meet to measure progress and negotiate multilateral responses to global warming. Also known as COP, the annual summit represents all that is good in the world as attendees tackle one of the biggest existential threats of our time. The conference, however, can also be used for nefarious purposes.

Take for example, Azerbaijan, a country that has been ruled by a petro-dictator, Ilham Aliyev, who has exploited their vast natural resources to buy a seat at the world’s table. For years, Azerbaijan has tried to shape the world’s perception of them as a country that is open for business, with oil and gas playing a vital role in those efforts. It’s one of the reasons why Azerbaijan is celebrating the U.N.’s decision to name them as next year’s host for COP29, which is shortsighted, confounding, and dangerous. Put simply, Azerbaijan is trying to cover up its dreadful environmental and human rights record through events like COP.

By awarding Azerbaijan this honor, the U.N. is sending the wrong message to the world and is undermining the core mission and ethos of the annual conference and organization as a whole.

When Azerbaijan hosts COP29 next year, it will do so as a country that relies heavily on oil and gas, which accounts for around 95 percent of its total export revenues. That production will only increase as the European Commission inked a deal with Azerbaijan in 2022 to double imports of natural gas by 2027, to help the bloc reduce its reliance on Russian energy.

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And when attendees attend COP29 in Baku, they will also be visiting an area known to be “the ecologically most devasted area in the world,” due in large part to oil spills and a country home to one of the most polluted places on Earth.

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