The choice to hold this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP28) in Dubai, which began on Thursday, has been heavily criticized by scientists, activists and politicians due to the fact that the United Arab Emirates is the seventh largest oil producing country in the world. and the fifth by broadcasts of greenhouse gases per capita. Despite this, it is possible that next year’s COP will also have to be organized with the collaboration of the Emirates. Russia is the main culprit.
The COPs are organized in turn in the five regional groups in which the UN countries are distributed: the African Group, the Asia-Pacific Group, the Eastern Europe Group, the Latin America and Caribbean Group and the Western Europe and Other States Group. . For each COP, countries in the current group must agree on which of the event applicants will host the event. Usually this does not cause major problems, and then the UN gives its approval to the decision made between the countries in the group. For 2024, it would belong to the Eastern European Group, which includes 23 countries, and Bulgaria has offered to take charge. The problem is that Russia, which belongs to the same group, he’s against it to the candidatures of the countries which are part of the European Union, and therefore also to that of Bulgaria.
For this reason, it is not yet known where the COP29 of 2024 will be organized, and the issue will be discussed these days in Dubai on the sidelines of the most relevant discussions on the future of the planet and humanity. On the other hand, we have known since May that COP30 2025 will take place in Belém, Brazil.
Julian Popov, Bulgarian Minister of the Environment, spoke on the issue with Policy explaining that the official Russian position is that European Union countries would not be impartial in the management of the COP and would have opposed Russian-backed candidates “on various issues related to the war in Ukraine”. But, according to Popov, this is essentially a form of “retaliation” against European support for Ukraine.
Last year, in addition to Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia’s main ally, and Armenia also applied to host COP29. Then, in June, Azerbaijan also ruled, two months before taking military control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the breakaway state on its territory inhabited mainly by ethnic Armenians. Armenia and Azerbaijan block each other’s applications.
The fact that it is not yet known where the next COP will be held constitutes both a practical and diplomatic problem. Since 2015, the COPs have become major events that last almost two weeks, involve heads of state and government from around the world and bring together tens of thousands of people: two years ago in Glasgow, there were more than 40,000, for one in Dubai, 70,000 people are expected in total. Their organization is therefore not easy and the cities chosen as host locations begin to prepare in advance.
Furthermore, the countries hosting the COPs are usually also responsible for managing the presidency of the conferences themselves, which plays an important role in the negotiation process in which countries around the world negotiate on what initiatives to take to combat the global warming and for their success. According to Popov, Russia’s behavior “undermines the entire COP mechanism and will inevitably have a negative impact on the quality of the negotiations.”
If no agreement can be found between Eastern European countries, several alternative possibilities are being studied. The first is that the UAE is also hosting next year’s COP. COP28 Director-General Majid al Suwaidi said last month that his country would no longer host the climate conference, but did not comment on the possibility of him retaining the presidency. COP29 could take place physically in the German city of Bonn, which is the headquarters of the UNFCCC, the UN body that deals with climate change and the part of the UN that deals with COPs, but be again managed from the Emirates. According to the COP guidelines, the conferences should be held in Bonn in the absence of an agreement between the countries of the current group.
But for this to be possible, the agreement of Germany would be required and, according to various diplomatic sources, Policy It is not certain that there will be any.
Another possibility is that the Eastern European Group swaps turns with another group of UN countries, as happened in 2019 when Spain hosted COP25 instead of Chile , which was then occupied by large anti-government demonstrations. Or we could do the compromise solution recently proposed by Bulgaria: a “distributed” COP, that is, with a seat in one country and a presidency in another, and other collateral events elsewhere.
But these two alternative solutions would require the unanimity of the Eastern European Group countries, as well as the withdrawal of all existing applications; it is therefore not certain that they are really achievable. In the absence of an agreement, the only possibility would remain Bonn, with the Emirati presidency contested.