Climate change

COP28 deal: ‘The beginning of the end for fossil fuels’

A ‘historic’ deal to move away from fossil fuels was reached at COP28 on 13 December. TU Delft climate expert Miren Vizcaino discusses the agreement’s strong and weak points.

English only

After two weeks of intense negotiations, nearly 200 nations struck a deal at COP28, the UN climate summit in Dubai. For the first time ever, the agreement calls on all countries to transition away from using fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.

At the beginning of COP28, TU Delft Associate Professor Miren Vizcaino, a climate modeller and a scientific contributor to the last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports, was optimistic. The UN’s climate conferences, she told Delta, are the ‘only way to find solutions’. What is her reaction to the new deal which aims to address the primary cause of global warming?

What was your initial reaction to the COP28 climate agreement? Was it in line with what you expected?
“My initial reaction was happiness. I was very pleased with the result, and I was surprised. The press had been preparing us for the possibility of not reaching an agreement, and so the final deal was more than I expected. The first words that sounded after the deal was announced, were ‘historic agreement’, which I believe to be true. This is the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.”

‘Essentially all countries in the world have agreed to move away from fossil fuels’

In your opinion, what are the strongest points of the deal?
“That it is on paper. Because we really need to phase out fossil fuels, we cannot continue like this – it is self-destructive. It is therefore incredibly important that we have it on paper now, that essentially all countries in the world have agreed to move away from fossil fuels. We still need to do the hard work, but at least we have the road map on how to transition to greener energy. One hundred and ninety-six countries have put their commitment in writing.”

Are there any parts of the deal that you find worrisome?
“Yes, there are. We have a road map, and the target is clear – to reduce emissions – but many things are still missing on this map. First of all, the finances. There are no clear agreements on how the transition and adaptation will be financed, which is especially important for developing countries.

Secondly, I’m worried about the carbon capture mechanisms, which could potentially be misused as an excuse to not stay below the 1.5C temperature rises. Lastly, the agreement mentions transitional fuels, which are still essentially fossil fuels. I’m worried about how much these transitional fuels will be used, while we could be using renewables instead.”

‘I hope the words ‘phase out’ will be incorporated in the next deal’

The deal calls on all countries to move away from using fossil fuels – but it does not talk about ‘phase out’, which was the original goal for many countries. What do you think about this?
“This is indeed a little disappointing. Framing the goal as a ‘phase out’ would make the map more reliable and clearer for everyone. On the other hand, I fully understand that this is an agreement between 196 countries, and so some targets will always be watered down. I hope the words ‘phase out’ will be incorporated in the next COP deal.”

How do you look back on this year’s climate summit overall?
“I’m feeling a lot of gratitude to all the people who have worked hard to make this happen. I’m also very grateful to the press. The press has made the leaders accountable and forced them to acknowledge science on climate change.

This sets a very good example, because it led to alignment between society leaders, the press and science. Leaders and politicians should be held accountable for not aligning with science. This is about the future of all of us. After all, 2023 was the warmest year on record. The evidence is hitting us in the face. Denying the science is denying the people.”

‘We need active participation at TU Delft’

Looking ahead, what should the focus of the COP29 climate summit in Azerbaijan be?
“COP29 should address the weaker points of this year’s deal, especially the finances for adaptation and transition. It should also focus on quantifying the targets. We need very clear targets – the more specific they are, the bigger chance we have of succeeding.”

What should the next steps be, locally and globally?
“In the context of this monumental agreement, I’d like to mention a campus-wide consultation on what the policy on TU Delft’s collaboration with fossil fuel companies should be. Just as we needed a critical mass at COP28, we need active participation at TU Delft.

All students and employees should have received an invitation for this consultation, which gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts on possible action points, and the reasons behind it. The deadline is in a few days.

While a large number of people have responded – we have about 1,000 respondents so far – the percentage should still be higher, because we have many more students and employees here. The results will be shared with the Executive Board. In line with the transition, this is also very important.”

Wetenschapsredacteur Michaela Nesvarova

Heb je een vraag of opmerking over dit artikel?


Comments are closed.