Members of a UCC delegation which attended the Cop28 Summit. Photo: UCC

Mixed reaction to Cop28 deal

In a historic decision, representatives from almost 200 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels to combat the challenges of climate change at the Cop 28 Summit in Dubai yesterday.

Despite the agreement not including a specific commitment to phasing out fossil fuels, the accord urges nations to actively contribute to transitioning away from them “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

Speaking about the landmark agreement, Dr Paul Deane is Senior Lecturer in Clean Energy Futures at MaREI and the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at UCC, described it as “a good deal, not a great deal, but a deal nonetheless”.

“What’s hopeful about it is that we have collectively agreed that we need to move away from fossil fuels, and within that agreement are countries that produce most of the fossil fuels, like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Getting those countries to agree that we need to transition away from fossil fuels is a big step, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said.

“Their economies are built on the foundation of fossils fuels, recognising that it needs to change is an important step for us all. But ink is cheap, action takes effort. We won’t know for the next number of years whether this will be acted on, but let’s hope it will be acted on and some positive change will be fostered,” he added.

Addressing Ireland's reliance on fossil fuels, Dr Deane was critical of the country's performance.

”We talk a lot about fossil producing countries but we forget sometimes that Ireland is one of the most fossil fuel reliant countries in Europe. In fact there was a report released this week from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland which shows that about 85% of all the energy that we use in Ireland comes from fossil fuels, so we are very much part of the problem,” he said.

“We are not reducing our reliance on fossil fuels quick enough or a scale that is big enough to be anywhere close to our climate target. Thankfully we have lots of pieces of the puzzle for those solutions. We can generate a lot more of energy from the weather, wind, sunlight, and the land. It’s going to take decades before it can happen, but for Ireland there’s more to gain than to lose from moving away from fossil fuels,” he added.

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, criticised the failure to commit to a full fossil fuel phase out as well as a lack of transparency at the conference.

“The COP28 agreement, while signalling the need to bring about the end of the fossil fuel era, falls short by failing to commit to a full fossil fuel phase out,” she said.

“However, at COP28 transparency, equity and climate justice have been undermined by misleading language, false solutions and game-playing,” she continued.

“World leaders must continue to urgently pull together and find ways forward to tackle this existential threat. Every day of delay condemns millions to an uninhabitable world.”