Dr. Fatih Birol, President of the International Energy Agency, stated that the phrase “moving away from fossil fuels” in the COP28 final declaration gave a serious signal to the markets and investors, and said that Turkey should accelerate its steps to prepare the economy for the future.
Evaluating the results of the summit to the EKONOMİ daily newspaper, Birol said, “There is no going back on this. Turkey needs to start negotiations with the EU and take steps on how it should follow a road map for the Carbon Tax at the Border while reducing carbon emissions.”
“I don’t think the results of COP28 are as bad as they are said to be. We had set 5 conditions for COP28 to be considered successful. 3.5 of the 5 conditions were published in the final declaration” Birol said and added that despite the opposition of oil companies and oil producing countries, for the first time in 28 years, the decision to move away from fossil fuels was included in the final declaration.
The COP28 Climate Summit, which ended on December 13, was considered a “historic” summit as it gave a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is over. COP28, the first summit to explicitly mention fossil fuels in its decision text, called on countries to move away from the use of fossil fuels in their energy systems, albeit weakly.
Turkey did not sign several declarations to strongly tackle the climate crisis, including a commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency. It has also indicated that it wants to benefit from the Loss and Damage Fund for climate change-induced disasters.
We met with Dr. Fatih Birol, President of the International Energy Agency, at the agency’s headquarters in Paris to discuss the COP28 Climate Summit. Dr. Birol’s comments are as follows:
The decision text will be an important turning point in the energy and climate debate
“In general, I don’t think the results of COP28 are as bad as they are said to be. We had set 5 conditions for COP28 to be considered a success. 3.5 of the 5 conditions were published in the final declaration. These were tripling the global renewable capacity, doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements and reducing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75 percent. We had suggested more precise language on fossil fuels. Instead, they used the phrase transition away from fossil fuels by 2030. Although this was not as precise as we thought, it gave a serious signal to the markets, investors and energy companies. ‘The future of the energy world is in clean energy, we need to gradually move away from fossil fuels’ was a declaration signed by 200 countries. I think this will be an important turning point in international energy and climate discussions. So, it was a successful meeting, even if it was not very successful. Of course, it is not without its shortcomings. The IEA wrote 70 percent of the final declaration.
Investment in clean energy technologies is essential for a competitive economy
“All countries, including Turkey, signed the final document. Of course, the important thing is not to sign, but to put it into practice. Starting from January, we will analyze the decisions and steps taken by the countries in return for their signatures. We will publish the results at the COP29 meeting in Azerbaijan. Turkey has taken good steps in renewable energy, but we are still using a very small part of our potential. We have a tremendous potential especially in solar and wind. We also have great potential in energy efficiency. What is important for Turkey and for all countries is that moving to clean energy technologies means not only saving the world, but also preparing the economy and industry for the future. For example, China is currently the world champion in clean energy. China ranks first in solar, wind, electric cars and hydrogen. The reason why China is so far ahead is not the environment and climate, but preparing the Chinese economy for the future. For this reason, I think Turkey should accelerate the steps it has taken in clean energy technologies as much as possible. If we accelerate this, we will ensure that our economy is more robust, we will be prepared for the future, and we will fulfill our duties as a G20 country.”
I am surprised that the business community has not mobilized on a large scale
Challenges await countries trading with the EU in the coming period. One of the most important of these is the carbon tax at the border. As of 2026, this practice is very important for us. Turkey does nearly 50 percent of its trade with the EU and is the second country after China that will be most affected by this practice. While reducing carbon emissions in sectors such as iron and steel, aluminum and cement, Turkey needs to start bilateral negotiations with the EU and take steps to determine what kind of road map it should follow. Otherwise, our competitiveness will be seriously damaged as costs will rise in many important industrial branches. I think the business world should take action much earlier and start the process of determining a road map. I am surprised that this has not been addressed on a large scale until now. Of course, the financial sector and decision makers also need to take action. As COP28 showed, there is no going back. The transformation will affect our lives economically. We are facing a brand new technology revolution. The electric car revolution will accelerate much more. Renewable energy investments will increase significantly. Dependence on fossil fuels will decrease.”
Despite OPEC, for the first time in 28 years, the decision to move away from fossil fuels is in the final declaration
“Holding COP28 in the UAE raised many questions. There were concerns that the outcome would favor oil and gas. At the International Energy Agency, we were very persistent. We organized five big meetings in one year with Sultan El Jaber, the President of COP28. We said that if COP28 did not send a signal to the financial, economic and energy markets about fossil fuels, we would consider the summit a failure. The summit resulted in a decision to move away from fossil fuels. Despite the opposition of oil companies and oil producing countries, the decision to move away from fossil fuels was included in the final declaration for the first time in 28 years.”