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COP29: Azerbaijan adds women to climate summit committee following backlash over all-male panel

COP29: Azerbaijan adds women to climate summit committee following backlash over all-male panel

The president of Azerbaijan has announced that 12 women have been added to the committee for COP29.

The news comes after the country faced backlash earlier this week for announcing an all-male panel for the global climate summit, which it is hosting at the end of this year.

The gender bias was lambasted by campaigners as regressive, with one group saying “climate change affects the whole world, not half of it.”

President Ilham Aliyev has also added another man to the panel, bringing the total up to 29 men and 12 women.

The members are predominantly government ministers or officials and include the head of the state security service. The deputy minister of ecology and natural resources, Umayra Taghiyeva, and the human rights commissioner, Sabina Aliyeva, are now among them.

Azerbaijan’s all-male COP29 committee sparked condemnation

Azerbaijan’s original all-male committee announced earlier this week drew sharp criticism from the She Changes Climate campaign group which published a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This [committee] is a regressive step in the journey towards gender parity in climate; but there is still time for change,” the group wrote.

“We ask for equal representation in the governance of this year’s climate talks, because climate change affects the whole world, not half of it.”

Other groups also spoke out against the decision. “The world is on fire, our climate is in crisis, women are disproportionately affected. So what’s the COP29 committee’s revolutionary idea to save the planet? Excluding women from decision making… of course!,” wrote the UK-based Women's Equality Party on X.

She Changes Climate has welcomed the news that women have now been invited to the table, but say the changes do not go far enough.

"This is positive progress but we're still far from a 50:50 gender balance. This is a quick fix but not enough," says co-founder Elise Buckle.

Women have a history of being underrepresented at climate talks

Last year, the COP28 host nation the United Arab Emirates appointed an organising committee of 63 per cent women.

But women have a history of being underrepresented at the major climate talks and only five have been selected as presidents in 29 years of the event.

This year, former state oil executive Mukhtar Babayev will lead talks as the COP29 president-designate. He is now Azerbaijan’s minister of ecology and natural resources.

“We once again ask for a firewall between the fossil fuel industry and the COP presidency as environmental integrity remains a concern for us and many civil society organisations,” She Changes Climate added in its statement.

The COP29 committee is responsible for preparing and implementing an Action Plan governing the organisation and conduct of the summit.

This is the second year in a row that the UN’s key climate summit will be hosted by a petro-state. Azerbaijan is highly dependent on fossil fuels and is the oldest oil-producing region in the world.