COP29 climate talks without a home amid Russian opposition to EU venues

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BRUSSELS – Russia’s opposition to holding next year’s United Nations climate summit in a European Union country has left nations scrambling to find an alternative in time to organise the massive global event.

Nearly 200 countries gather each year for the two-week “Conference of Parties” – referred to as COP – to agree joint efforts to tackle climate change.

This year will mark the 28th such conference, or COP28, and will begin on Nov 30 in Dubai.

The event rotates around the world’s regions and next year is set to take place in Eastern Europe, but geopolitical tensions amid the Ukraine war have so far prevented the region from agreeing on a location.

Russia earlier this year opposed COP29 being held in a European Union country. The EU has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has sanctioned Moscow over the war.

Armenia and Azerbaijan also offered to host COP29 – but each is expected to veto the other, amid heightened tensions after Azerbaijan retook the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh with a military operation last month.

“There is no solution at the moment,” Bulgaria’s Environment minister, Mr Julian Popov, told Reuters.

The discussion among countries was now about “how to save COP” next year, he added.

The 23 countries in the UN’s Eastern European group must be unanimous in their choice for the host. Bulgaria, an EU member, volunteered to host COP29 but was opposed by Russia.

Bulgaria’s Mr Popov said countries are now discussing unusual options, including potentially splitting the massive event into a series of smaller conferences held in different Eastern European countries. He said Bulgaria would still be willing to host.

“The practicality of organising a huge event in one year is also becoming quite difficult,” he added.

The host country would hold the COP presidency – a key role in driving ambition at the summit and guiding the talks.

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