5th January 2024, London – This week, it was announced that Azeri Ecology Minister Mukhtar Babayev, who spent over 20 years at Azerbaijan's state-owned oil and gas company SOCAR, has been appointed as the president of this year's UN climate talks.

The decision means oil executives will lead consecutive UN climate talks after Sultan Al-Jaber, boss of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), ran COP28.

Last year at least 2456 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the COP28 summit in Dubai, signalling an unprecedented presence at crucial climate talks from representatives of some of the world’s biggest polluters, according to analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition.

Azerbaijan is a petrostate which depends on oil for its revenues. As Global Witness reported recently, oil giant BP and its project partners have transferred $35 billion worth of oil and gas production to Azerbaijan’s government since 2020, the year that war broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive in the territory in 2023, and has since been accused of 'ethnic cleansing'.

Alice Harrison, Fossil Fuels Campaign Leader at Global Witness said,

“COP28 was run by oil lobbyists, so it’s no surprise that the final agreement committed the world to fossil fuels forever. There’s a sense of déjà vu setting in – we now have a former oil executive from an authoritarian petrostate in charge of the world’s response to the crisis that fossil fuel firms created.”

“We again call for the UNFCCC to urgently intervene and kick big polluters out of climate talks, to ensure the talks are held in good faith, and to remove those people who want to make a profit at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable people”.