COP29 can be turning point for Azerbaijan’s clean energy transition and beyond - IEA's Fatih Birol (Exclusive interview)

Green Economy Materials 25 April 2024 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
COP29 can be turning point for Azerbaijan’s clean energy transition and beyond - IEA's Fatih Birol (Exclusive interview)
Laman Zeynalova
Laman Zeynalova
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 25. COP29 can be a turning point both for Azerbaijan and at the international level, Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in an interview with Trend.

"I think Azerbaijan has already proven to be a good energy partner to Europe through the Southern Gas Corridor. Since many years, there was a good, mutually beneficial relationship with Azerbaijan and Europe. Now, when we look at Azerbaijan's renewable potential, it is huge, both in terms of wind and solar energy. I know that the government is taking steps to move in this direction and has good plans to make the most of the renewable potential. The very recent auction on solar power is a good example in that direction," he said.

Birol believes that if those plans are realized, Azerbaijan can be a good partner for Europe for clean energy.

"There are many good examples on that, including the Black Sea Cable Project. I hope that in addition to the existing energy partnership based on the natural gas, renewable energy can be an important component which Europe needs, what the world needs and where Azerbaijan has a very good potential. Europe's green transition is mainly based on the clean energy, namely, solar, wind energy, energy efficiency, also green hydrogen and nuclear power in some countries. Azerbaijan has already made some steps in the clean energy. But these are still about a few percentage points of the entire potential the country has. So, I very much hope that this potential is fully, if not fully, largely exploited, first, being used at home in Azerbaijan," said IEA's executive director.

Also, as Birol pointed out, the potential is so big that it can be a good source of exports to Europe through different ways.

"I also believe that Azerbaijan needs to pay a bit more attention to improving energy efficiency at home. There's a big potential there. In that respect, COP29 can be a turning point not only at the regional and international level, but also at the domestic level, in Azerbaijan, to ramp up its efforts for clean energy transition, in addition to its traditional role of being a reliable supplier to Europe. Last year, Azeri gas exports were about 12 billion cubic meters, and it's a significant amount, which helps to diversify European gas imports," he noted.

Birol also talked about his expectations from Azerbaijan's COP presidency.

"The COP meetings are international summits around the world. I had the opportunity to attend several COP meetings. For the COP29, I expect a number of things from Azerbaijan's presidency. The first one is to push forward the good outcomes coming from COP28 on renewables, energy efficiency, reduction of methane emissions and others for which the IEA played an instrumental role. Secondly, I hope, a very key topic for clean energy transition globally, which is the financing of clean energy transition will get a good place there. Thirdly, countries are about to make new commitments in the years to come in terms of how they are going to reduce the emissions. I hope the Azerbaijani presidency will provide a good basis for that," he said.

In addition, IEA's executive director believed that Azerbaijan can emerge as a leader in green transition.

"There are some areas that the countries can benefit a lot, namely how the countries in the region can reduce their methane emissions, how the countries in the region can improve their energy efficiency, because their energy efficiency performance in the region is below the international levels. There is a huge potential to improve that. Azerbaijan hopefully, will look at these also two regional aspects as well, in addition to the international points I have just mentioned," Fatih Birol said.

He went on to add that Azerbaijan is an oil and gas country, which wants to be a leader also, or playing a leading role in the green energy, because the potential is there.

"I see that there is also a political determination from the government. I expect that on one hand, providing an important contribution to the fight against climate change globally, Azerbaijan can take steps to support the clean energy transition, evolution of the countries in the region. I believe there is a huge opportunity for Azerbaijan to show its leadership. I know that, unlike some other COP presidencies, Azerbaijan has much less time. Normally, it is about two years or so for the preparation of the presidencies. But in the case of Azerbaijan, it is some eight months that the government has. But my interactions with the Azerbaijani government officials, including the president-designate of COP29, and his colleagues, with the foreign minister, the economy minister, I see that they are very keen to make a perfect job," said Birol.

He noted that IEA is ready to support Azerbaijan, as it did in the United Arab Emirates, ensuring its successful COP28 presidency.

"As I told our colleagues from the Azerbaijani government, we are ready to support the presidency of Azerbaijan from A to Z. There are many ways of supporting them. Firstly, on May 15, here in Paris, we are going to organize a high-level dialogue, bringing several governments, several international organizations together in a discussion how we can get a good outcome from the COP29 meeting in Baku. Azerbaijan's Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev and myself will chair this meeting. We will have several governments around the world represented in this meeting to discuss the priorities of Azerbaijan and how we can work together. This is one area that we are going to work with Azerbaijan," he said.

Secondly, as Birol mentioned, there are different outcomes that the Azerbaijani government is working on, from finance to methane, from methane to efficiency, renewables.

"We are going to work very closely with the Azerbaijani government to support them, to provide advice, to provide input to them, as we have done for the COP28 presidency. Right after Azerbaijan, there will be another COP meeting in Brazil, and I have already visited Brasilia and discussed with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva about how we are going to build a long bridge between Dubai, Baku, and Brazil, and we are going to work on that. I will be soon coming to Baku to detail how we can make concrete steps. We have little time to get some meaningful results from the meeting. As I said, from A to Z, we are ready to support Azerbaijan as the International Energy Agency.

The visit will take place after the Paris meeting. I have already hosted several Azerbaijani government officials here in Paris headquarters, but the first international meeting that I am going to chair with Minister Babayev will be on May 15. Afterwards I will come over to Baku to detail out our cooperation and the concrete steps we need to take to have a successful meeting that our colleagues from Emirates had," said IEA's executive director.

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