COP28 is over - what did it achieve?

The 28th UN Climate Change Conference has come to an end, but the text adopted is not the historic agreement the world needs, say critics. There is still no mention of phasing out fossil fuels, for example.

A clear commitment to phasing out fossil fuels, which the EU and Switzerland had been pushing for, was not achieved at the last World Climate Conference; it failed due to Saudi Arabia. Emerging African countries also viewed such a move with concern for their economic development. Nevertheless, the beginning of the end of the fossil age was announced; COP28 called on the world to move away from coal, oil and gas.

In this respect, observers speak of a historic breakthrough, as it was stated for the first time that a move away from fossil fuels is necessary and that 'net zero emissions' must be achieved by 2050. Critics complain that the language in the final declaration is too soft and non-binding. The reason given is the consensus procedure, which means that even the last oil country has to agree to the text.

Is the end of fossil fuels near?

Greenpeace also does not see the adopted text as the historic agreement that the world needs: «There are many loopholes. Unfortunately, there is still no mention of 'phasing out' fossil fuels. Nevertheless, the text sends out a signal for an end to the era of fossil fuels and calls on countries to massively expand renewable energies and efficiency in this decade», says Georg Klingler, climate and energy expert at Greenpeace Switzerland.

And climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Potsdam, warns on «tagesschau.de»: «It is ultimately vital for the survival of human civilization that we turn away from fossil fuels. We are creating extremely dangerous global warming, a real climate crisis, with these fossil emissions. We have already left behind the stable climate of the last 10'000 years - the Holocene, in which humanity developed agriculture, became sedentary and prospered. And the further we move away from this stable climate, the more likely it is that we will reach the limits of stress, beyond which ecosystems will die off, for example.»

Turning away offers new opportunities

«Switzerland has a lot to gain by strengthening its climate policy and setting a good example, even if it only has a small share of global carbon emissions. The economic opportunities and the many new jobs associated with the switch to renewable energies and the decarbonization of the energy system are just a few examples», Klingler adds. A richly endowed country like Switzerland has all the prerequisites to pursue an ambitious climate policy. «However, we have everything to lose if we allow global warming to escalate further», he warns.