Azerbaijan adds 12 women in the COP 29 committee after outcry over gender imbalance

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Azerbaijan has revised its organizing committee for the COP 29 climate summit, which it will host in November, by adding 12 women to the previously all-male team. The decision came after the country faced criticism from various groups and individuals for its lack of gender diversity and representation.

The original committee, announced two weeks ago, consisted of 28 men, mostly government officials and ministers. Among them was the COP 29 president-designate, Mukhtar Babayev, the minister of ecology and natural resources, who has a long history of working for the state-owned oil and gas company Socar.

The announcement sparked outrage from She Changes Climate, a global movement that advocates for women’s leadership and participation in climate negotiations. The group called the all-male committee “regressive” and “shocking”, and said that “climate change affects the whole world, not half of it”.

The group also launched a petition, signed by more than 75 women leaders from business, academia, civil society and media, urging Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev to reconsider his decision and ensure that “the best minds come together to advance solutions” at the upcoming summit.

On Friday, Aliyev responded to the pressure by expanding the committee to 40 members, including 12 women. Some of the women added are Umayra Taghiyeva, the deputy minister of ecology and natural resources, Sabina Aliyeva, the human rights commissioner, and Bahar Muradova, the chair of the state committee on family, women and children’s problems.

She Changes Climate welcomed the move as “positive progress”, but said that it was still far from a 50:50 gender balance. The group also expressed concern over Azerbaijan’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and the potential conflicts of interest of Babayev as the COP 29 president.

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, and plans to increase its fossil fuel output by a third over the next decade, according to the International Energy Agency. The country’s emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, and its climate action plan is rated as “critically insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker.

The COP 29 summit, which will take place in Baku from November 6 to 17, is expected to be a crucial moment for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the global pact to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. The summit will also address issues such as climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage, and transparency.

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