According to internal emails received by Reuters, Russia plans to block European Union countries from hosting the UN’s international climate negotiations next year.
Moscow’s intervention shows how geopolitical disputes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year are complicating global efforts to combat climate change. It also risks delaying a final selection of COP29’s host, which could shorten the preparation time for the event.
Bulgaria and Armenia, a non-EU country, had put themselves forward as hosts of the summit, a role that can bring international prestige and an opportunity to advance domestic efforts to combat climate change – along with costly, intensive media- research and heavy logistics requirements.
Azerbaijan added its name to running this week.
“Azerbaijan is ready to host such an important event,” Umayra Taghiyeva, Azerbaijan’s deputy minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, told Reuters on Wednesday in the first public confirmation of the country’s long-speculated bid.
The rights to host the meetings rotate between the five global regions of the United Nations, with Eastern Europe as the host country in 2024. The 23 countries in that region must unanimously select their host candidate. If Russia vetoed all EU countries, Armenia or Azerbaijan could still be in the running.
EU member Czech Republic is no longer interested in hosting but is considering a bid to host a preliminary “pre-COP” event if Bulgaria makes it to the main summit, a Czech official said on Wednesday.
The Russian delegation to the UN climate body (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC) sent an email to representatives of other Eastern European countries in April saying it would not support an EU host country.
In the email, which has not been reported before, the Russian delegation said EU countries had taken a “politicized” approach in determining the host country, which had resulted in Russian-backed candidates being blocked.
“It is reasonable to assume that EU countries, driven by politics from Brussels, are unable to act as fair and effective mediators in global climate negotiations under the UNFCCC,” the statement said.
Russia’s special presidential representative for climate, Ruslan Edelgeriev, declined to confirm whether Russia would oppose Bulgaria’s candidacy.
“Bulgaria is not the only candidate to host COP29 in 2024. The matter will be decided in strict accordance with the procedures of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC,” Edelgeriev said in written responses to questions.
The 27-nation EU, along with Western allies including Britain and the United States, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Moscow over the war.
The Eastern European country group is discussing the issue this week at a UN meeting in Bonn, Germany. All countries would then normally confirm the group’s decision at this year’s COP28 summit, which begins in November.
If the group cannot agree, a fallback option could be to host the event at the permanent offices of the UN Climate Change Agency in Bonn – although that would require the backing of the German government.
At last year’s UN climate conference, Bulgaria’s president, Rumen Radev, signaled that the country would be willing to host the event, and Bulgaria continued its candidacy in late May with support from other EU countries.
This week, however, Bulgaria formed a new government, which has yet to confirm it still wants to host. Bulgaria’s environment ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Arzerbaijan and Armenia – neighboring countries that have been embroiled in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh territory for decades – have both confirmed they are also in the running.
“At the moment we are not blocked by any country from the Eastern European region,” Emin Garabaghli, head of the international cooperation department of the Azerbaijan ministry of ecology, told Reuters.
The annual UN climate summits attract tens of thousands of delegates from nearly 200 countries, as well as businesses, investors and industry lobbyists.
The United Arab Emirates will host this year’s COP28 conference on behalf of the Asia Pacific group.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)