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COP29: Azerbaijan sets ambitious targets to shift to renewable sources

17 April 2024 08:30 (UTC+04:00)
COP29: Azerbaijan sets ambitious targets to shift to renewable sources
Qabil Ashirov
Qabil Ashirov
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As is known, COP29 is an international event dedicated to the negotiation of the climate change issue with the participation of countries around the world and the solution of similar problems related to it. In order to tackle some key issues encountering our climate, the world's countries must show readiness to be together, which is the most important point.

However, the question of whether the world is ready for COP 29 and the broader challenge of addressing climate change is still complex and requires a look at both the readiness and the commitment of countries globally.

Speaking to AZERNEWS on the issue, Muhammad Asif Noor, Director of the Centre for Central Asia and Eurasian Studies—Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, noted that recent events and data indicate varying levels of preparedness and willingness among nations, which influence the overall effectiveness of such international negotiations and conventions. When we analyse the countries globally in terms of their political will and presence to tackle the global climate challenges, what we witness is that the countries have a mixed level of preparedness and readiness. He noted that, for instance, countries in Europe and parts of Asia have shown significant commitment by setting ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources; however, are they willing to do it or are they taking actions towards it?

"This has to be seen from their actions and steps taken to ensure climate readiness. For instance, the European Union has implemented comprehensive policies aiming at a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. However, other regions, including some of the largest emitters like the United States and China, have faced internal political challenges that complicate their paths to similar commitments. The U.S., for instance, has seen fluctuating federal policies on climate change depending on the administration in power, though there is significant action at the state level and among private sectors. Economic readiness can also be gauged by investment in and adoption of sustainable technologies. Globally, investment in renewable energy sources continues to grow, reaching about $500 billion annually as of recent years. This reflects a growing recognition of the economic viability and necessity of transitioning away from fossil fuels. Yet, economic readiness must also consider the financial ability of less developed countries to invest in such technologies without compromising their development needs. This is where global financial mechanisms and support, such as the Green Climate Fund, play a critical role, although funding levels have often fallen short of what is necessary to make substantial impacts. Public awareness and support for climate action have grown significantly, driven by increasingly visible climate impacts like wildfires, hurricanes, and severe droughts," Asif Noor noted.

He said that the rise of grassroots movements, particularly among younger generations, has put additional pressure on governments to act. This social readiness is crucial as it underpins the political will that is often needed for bold policy moves. Noor pointed out that, from a technical standpoint, the world possesses the technological solutions required to make significant headway in combating climate change.

"Innovations in energy efficiency, renewable power technologies like solar and wind, and advances in electric vehicle technology all demonstrate readiness. The challenge remains in scaling these solutions, particularly in regions where technical and infrastructural barriers are significant. Apart from all these existing understandings, the world is far from taking solid action towards solutions and practical steps. The global climate does not have any geographical boundaries, we have one earth, and there is no planet B. We have to work through it regardless of whether we like it or not, whether there is political will or not, and whether we are economically ready or not. The world is suffering, and there is an immediate need to take action towards saving this planet," the expert underlined.

He opined that the connection between international climate initiatives like the COP and global employment might not be immediately obvious, but it is significant. The shift towards a more sustainable global economy, often discussed at such conferences, can create substantial opportunities for job creation. The expert underscored that the optimism of world experts about the COP measures frequently centres on this transformative potential. The transitioning to renewable energy and sustainable practices necessitates a broad range of new skills and labour. The development and deployment of renewable energy technologies—such as solar panels, wind turbines, and bioenergy facilities—are labour-intensive processes.

"These sectors require engineers, construction workers, technicians, and many other roles that contribute directly to local job creation. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector employed about 12 million people worldwide as of recent years, and this number is projected to grow as countries commit to more ambitious renewable energy targets.

Moreover, the move towards sustainability extends beyond just energy. COP discussions often address broad sustainability issues, including urban planning, agriculture, forestry, and water management—all of which are integral to a functioning economy and have strong ties to employment. For instance, sustainable agriculture practices not only help in adapting to changing climate conditions but also in creating more stable agricultural jobs. This is crucial in regions where agriculture is a primary source of livelihood. Similarly, forest management and conservation efforts require skilled labour and can boost employment in rural areas.

The discussions and commitments at COP meetings also typically influence policy frameworks. Governments, influenced by agreements made at COP, might implement new policies promoting green technology, conservation projects, and infrastructural changes to combat climate change," Asif Noor noted.

He pointed out that these policies often come with financial incentives for businesses to adopt greener practices, driving employment in emerging sectors such as waste management recycling, energy-efficient building construction, and environmental consultancy services. He emphasised that the global nature of COP discussions facilitates international cooperation and technology transfer. Developing countries can benefit from access to new technologies and practices, which can stimulate local industries and create jobs. This also includes capacity building, where developed nations support training and education in less developed regions, helping to prepare the workforce for future demands.

"Reducing global dependence on fossil fuels is a central theme in discussions about climate change and sustainable development. At forums like COP-29, countries can propose and adopt new strategies to accelerate this transition. There are several innovative and practical proposals that COP-29 could advance to help shift the global energy paradigm from fossil fuels to more sustainable alternatives.

One key proposal could be the enhancement and expansion of international financial mechanisms to support renewable energy projects in developing countries. Many countries struggle with the initial high costs of renewable energy infrastructure. COP-29 could propose the establishment or expansion of funds specifically aimed at financing renewable energy projects, providing low-interest loans, and offering grants to developing nations. This would reduce the economic barriers to entry for renewable technologies in places where the upfront costs are prohibitive," Asif Noor emphasised.

He said that another significant proposal might involve setting more aggressive global targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, accompanied by clear timelines and accountability mechanisms. For example, COP-29 could introduce a proposal for all countries to increase their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reducing emissions. These revised NDCs could include specific commitments to decrease reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas, and to increase investment in renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Asif Noor noted that COP-29 could also push for a global agreement on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Many countries, particularly those rich in oil, coal, or natural gas, heavily subsidise these industries, making fossil fuels economically more attractive than renewable sources. Redirecting these subsidies to support renewable energy development or energy efficiency improvements could make a significant impact on the global energy market.

"Additionally, the conference could propose initiatives aimed at technological cooperation. This might include the creation of international research consortia focused on improving energy efficiency and developing next-generation renewable energy technologies, such as advanced solar panels and offshore wind turbines. By fostering collaboration between leading scientific and technological nations, smaller and less technologically advanced countries can also benefit from the advancements. Pakistan is suffering from the issues and challenges of the climate and can get benefit from it without any iota of doubt.

Finally, COP-29 could advocate for enhanced global monitoring and reporting systems for carbon emissions. A proposal could involve developing more rigorous, transparent, and universally adopted carbon tracking and reporting standards to ensure that all countries are accurately measuring and reporting their emissions. This kind of data is crucial for assessing global progress and ensuring that countries are held accountable for their commitments.

These proposals, if successfully negotiated and implemented, would not only reduce global dependence on fossil fuels but would also foster economic growth in emerging sectors, contribute to global health improvements by reducing air pollution, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Each proposal would require substantial international cooperation and commitment, reflecting the global scale of the challenge and the concerted effort needed to address it," the expert opined.

As for Azerbaijan's role in the context of COP29 and global climate discussions, he emphasised that it is particularly intriguing, given its status as an oil-rich nation that is simultaneously embracing transitions towards sustainable energy. The world evaluates such positions from a perspective, acknowledging both the challenges and the potential leadership roles that oil-dependent countries like Azerbaijan can play in global environmental governance. He added that, as an oil and gas producer, Azerbaijan has historically been heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its economic growth. This dependency often places the country in a complex position when it comes to global climate negotiations like COP29. On one hand, there is an intrinsic challenge in shifting economic structures away from the very resources that have driven growth and stability. On the other hand, there is an opportunity for leadership in transitioning to sustainable practices.

"In recent years, Azerbaijan has shown increasing interest in reducing its carbon footprint and diversifying its energy portfolio. This includes initiatives to boost the share of renewable energy sources within its energy mix. The country has set goals to increase the percentage of renewable energy in its total energy production, aiming to reach certain targets in the coming years. Such initiatives are important as they reflect a commitment to change, which is a significant factor when the international community evaluates Azerbaijan's role and contributions to climate discussions like COP29.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan's geographical position and environmental challenges make it a critical player in regional environmental issues. The Caspian Sea, which it borders, is an area of environmental concern due to pollution and biodiversity threats. Actions taken by Azerbaijan to address these issues are also part of how its role is viewed internationally. Effective regional cooperation and leadership in environmental protection have enhanced Azerbaijan’s role and alleviated the country's stature as the leader in making global environmental and climate change reputations and influence at forums like COP29. Azerbaijan is not only following policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels domestically but also actively participating in and possibly leading international initiatives that aim to combat climate change. This includes engaging in technology transfer, financial contributions to climate funds, and diplomatic engagements that help shape global climate policy," Noor pointed out.

He pointed out that it is important for the world to support and continue the mission of its efforts to transition from fossil fuels and increase its global role in building climate initiatives. As an oil and gas-rich country, like any other country, Azerbaijan also faces tremendous challenges in building an economic base and shifting the focus towards more sustainable resources. Noor said that the entire process not only involves a change in the infrastructure but also a need for economic diversification. International support can help Azerbaijan manage this transition more smoothly, ensuring that it does not jeopardise its economic stability while making these important changes. This could come in the form of technological support, investment in renewable energy projects, and expertise in developing regulatory frameworks that encourage sustainable practices.

"Moreover, as part of the Caspian region, which is ecologically sensitive and crucial in terms of biodiversity, Azerbaijan's efforts in environmental management have broader implications. Support for Azerbaijan in enhancing its environmental protections can lead to improved ecological outcomes for the entire region. This can be particularly important for marine life in the Caspian Sea and the diverse ecosystems that are dependent on it. Support might include collaboration on environmental projects, the sharing of best practices in biodiversity conservation, and joint initiatives to tackle pollution.

From a global perspective, encouraging and supporting countries like Azerbaijan in their climate efforts contributes to the overall success of international climate goals. Nations transitioning from heavy reliance on fossil fuels send a powerful message globally and can act as role models for similar countries. Financial incentives, such as grants and loans, as well as technological partnerships, can expedite this transition, making it a viable model for others. Additionally, supporting Azerbaijan can also enhance global energy security. By diversifying its energy sources and reducing its dependence on oil and gas, Azerbaijan can contribute to a more balanced and less volatile global energy market. This is especially important as the world seeks to stabilise energy prices and ensure sustainable energy supplies in the face of climate change and geopolitical tensions. Finally, support for Azerbaijan in its climate and energy initiatives can strengthen international relations and foster cooperation in a region that is often marked by geopolitical complexities. Through collaborative projects and shared goals, bonds between nations can be strengthened, promoting peace and stability in the region," Asif Noor concluded.

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