Expert list VUB: The COP25, 2-13 December in Madrid

Expert list VUB: The COP25, 2-13 December in Madrid

VUB climate, ecology, energy and transition specialists

From 2 to 13 December, the United Nations Climate Conference will take place in Madrid, Spain. COP25 could become one of the most important summits since COP21, given that the participating countries can no longer afford to make only lukewarm commitments if they want to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. It could also become the COP with the most media coverage. Worldwide protests, particularly by young people, have raised awareness throughout society, and citizens will critically examine the measures taken by governments. And of course, the contribution of the scientific community will play a central role.


How do our climate and energy experts view this conference? The academic experts of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel are happy to share their expertise and analyses with you. 


Global warming

Philippe Huybrechts – Climate scientist

Philippe Huybrechts is a climate scientist and works in VUB’s Department of Geography and the interdisciplinary research group Earth System Science. He is a professor of climatology and glaciology, studying glaciers and ice sheets and their influence on climate and sea level. He is the lead author of the upcoming sixth evaluation report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for Working Group I: the Physical Science Basis.  

0474 99 33 95


Wim Thiery – Climate scientist

Wim Thiery is a climate scientist and works in VUB’s Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering department. Using a global climate model, he studies the historical and future influence of irrigation on climate extremes. His models and satellite observations predict that extreme weather conditions will intensify in the future, and his work contributes to the reports produced by the IPCC.


Mobile number via press service VUB: 0484 590 550

Franky Bossuyt – Ecosystems and sustainability

Franky Bossuyt is a biologist specialising in evolution and biodiversity. He studies how the restoration of natural ecosystems and the creation of healthy agricultural ecosystems can make an important contribution to the climate problem.

“Millions of years of evolution have led to the formation of sustainable ecosystems, which have been degraded in a short period of time. By restoring these ecosystems, and by imitating them in agricultural models, we can not only store carbon but also make gains in water management, open space and health.”  

02 629 36 48


(European) climate policy

Sebastian Oberthür – International and European climate policy

Sebastian Oberthür is professor of environmental and sustainability policy at VUB’s Institute for European Studies (IES) and an internationally recognised expert on international and European climate policy and law. He has been following the international climate negotiations since the 1990s as a scientist and advisor to several European governments.

“The Madrid climate conference is of great importance because countries have to adopt rules for the use of international market mechanisms and at the same time discuss the strengthening of their national contributions. Moreover, it is the first conference since the United States officially declared its departure from the Paris Convention. European leadership remains crucial at this stage of the international fight against climate change.”

Recent publications:

Sebastian Oberthür (2019), Hard or Soft Governance? The EU’s Climate and Energy Policy Framework for 2030, Politics and Governance, 7: 1, 17-27.

Sebastian Oberthür & Lisanne Groen (2018): Explaining goal achievement in international negotiations: the EU and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Journal of European Public Policy, 25: 5, 708-727 DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2017.1291708.

0477 84 16 54


Tomas Wyns – European climate policy

Tomas Wyns is a doctoral student at the IES, specialising in European and international climate policy and the EU emissions trading scheme. Previously, he worked as a climate policy officer for the Flemish government and the European Climate Action Network.

He is co-author of Metals for a Climate Neutral Europe: A 2050 Blueprint, published in November. It describes the possibilities and obstacles of the sector in the transition to climate neutrality and will play a role in the European Commission’s plans in this respect.

"In the enormous challenge of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Europe’s energy-intensive industries to zero by 2050, there is one industry that is the real pioneer for the future: Europe’s non-ferrous metals industry. This relatively small industry is not only crucial for Europe’s climate neutrality, given the indispensable use of metals in almost all known climate technologies, but it is also leading the way towards a GHG-neutral industry by 2050. The sector has made tremendous progress towards decarbonisation through a high degree of electrification, circularity and emission reduction – the same steps that every other industrial sector will have to take in the coming decades.”

On p. 21 of the report, there is a specific Flemish perspective: it states that Flanders Metals Valley is a smart industrial strategy for the circular and competitive industrial transition.

You can find the report at:

0473 84 03 22


Sebastian Sterl – Energy transition and international climate policy

Sebastian Sterl works as an energy and climate researcher at VUB and KU Leuven. Currently, his work focuses on the opportunities and challenges for renewable energy production, with a strong focus on developing countries. He is a physicist by training and worked for several years as an advisor in (inter)national energy and climate policy, including for the Climate Action Tracker. In this capacity, he advised governments, international organisations and NGOs in the drafting, modelling and analysis of climate policy measures in various sectors. Both during and outside working hours, he likes to act as a speaker to communicate the causes, consequences and solutions of the climate crisis to a broad audience.

“Under the Paris Accord, countries must set themselves ambitious climate targets to limit global warming to well below 2°C in the long term. The current climate objectives of most countries are still insufficient for this purpose. The idea is that in the coming years, countries will increase their targets in order to bring them in line with the Paris Agreement. In recent months, many countries have already indicated that they intend to do so, particularly small and medium-sized countries. Eyes are now on the big emitters, such as the EU, the US, China ... Will they follow suit?”

Mobile number via press service VUB: 0484 590 550


Climate policy in the legal system

Regine Feltkamp – The role of lawyers in climate policy

Régine Feltkamp is professor of economic and financial law at VUB. While economists, sociologists, historians, psychologists and other human scientists engage in the sustainability debate, lawyers are remarkably quiet. Régine Feltkamp regrets this attitude, as she believes lawyers can play an important role in the sustainability debate.

Mobile number via press service VUB: 0484 590 550


Implementation of climate solutions – transition


Willy Baeyens – CO2 reduction by means of plankton

Willy Baeyens is an environmental chemist at VUB. He is an expert in environmental problems and chemical pollution. He researched the fertilisation of plankton in the sea so that plants grow better and can extract more CO2 from the air.

“Reducing CO2 emissions and increasing CO2 absorption must go hand in hand. Marine plankton plays an important role in the absorption of CO2. Innovative research will determine which micro-nutrients of plankton need to be added where and when to absorb more CO2.”  

0485 39 62 69


Cathy Macharis – Sustainable mobility and logistics in Brussels, Flanders, Europe

Cathy Macharis is an expert in sustainable mobility and logistics at VUB. With the interdisciplinary research group MOBI she focuses on sustainable logistics, electric and hybrid vehicles and urban mobility and offers solutions for issues such as ‘What is the effect of freight and passenger transport on CO2 emissions in Brussels, Flanders and Europe and their impact on the climate?’

“The transport sector is responsible for 25% of CO2 emissions. It is also the sector that has the greatest difficulty in reversing the trend. Profits from better technology are offset by an ever-increasing demand for transport. A paradigm shift is needed, and it is needed now, in terms of both travel and the way we transport goods.”

Cathy Macharis is also chair of VUB’s Sustainability Advisory Board, guiding the university towards becoming climate-neutral, and organises climate boot camps for companies and policymakers. She is also a member of the climate expert panel for the Flemish government.

Mobile number via press service VUB: 0484 590 550


Julien Blondeau – Energy transition and the role of thermal power plants

Julien Blondeau is a professor of engineering and specialises in combustion mechanisms and thermal power plants. With the research group BURN, he contributes to the development of flexible, energy-efficient and non-polluting energy technologies. He is a member of the European ARBAHEAT consortium, which in 2018 began a research project to convert one of the world’s most modern coal-fired power plants, the ENGIE plant in Rotterdam, into a biomass-fired plant. The aim is to investigate the possibilities of an innovative technology to be as cost-efficient and flexible as possible in supplying sustainable electricity and heat from a 100% biomass-fired power plant.

“Worldwide, 40% of electricity is still produced by coal-fired power stations. Alternatives are wind, solar and hydro energy, but the question is whether they can provide a sufficient answer to the increasing energy demand. If we want to achieve a cost-efficient energy transition in the short term, the role of biomass and waste incineration, CO2 capture and storage and nuclear energy must also be considered. How will European and Asian countries, which are still very committed to coal production, be able to meet the growing demand for energy in the future?”  

0473 695 895




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