COP28 outcome a letdown, climatologist says

Ljubljana, 13 December - The deal on transitioning away from fossil fuels adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai is not historic in any way, says Slovenian climatologist Lučka Kajfež Bogataj. To deserve such a name, it would need to include actual, legally binding commitments, she added.

"We have known for 30 years now beyond any doubt that the only solution to the climate crisis is to abandon fossil fuels," she told the STA in response to the deal being unanimously adopted at the latest COP28.

For the first time in history, the document includes fossil fuels but only in terms of a transition away from such sources and not their complete phase-out. The agreement also lacks a clear commitment for emissions to start coming down earlier, after 2025.

Kajfež Bogataj feels the deal was adopted just so that the negotiations at the conference would not be seen as "a complete failure".

Talking about the recognition of the role of "transition fuels" and the phase-out of coal for power generation unless it is coupled with carbon capture, she said this should be understood as a way of opening the door to the increased use of gas which would replace coal in particular, for example in thermal power plants.

This is what gas lobbies have been pushing for since the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow, she said, adding that the deal thus allows for carbon capture and storage technologies - which have not yet been tested out well - to enter the picture.

"Besides posing environmental risks, carbon capture is also expensive and energy-intensive. The money would be much better spent on increasing energy efficiency or developing non-carbon energy sources."

She agreed that the outcome of COP28 has let down not only island states and developing countries but also the entire young generation because it tacitly legitimises the human behaviour of the last few decades to continue, which will reinforce political divisions and deepen distrust.

This could make tackling climate risks impossible and reduce prosperity in both poor and rich countries due to heat, drought, floods, crop failures and forest degradation, she said.