The UN summit’s deal heralds the end of coal, oil and gas. The real test is whether producers back it up with action

From the start, Cop28 appeared beyond the reach of satire. About 100,000 politicians, diplomats, lobbyists, business people, investors, activists, scientists, policy wonks and journalists from across the globe registered for a two-week climate summit hosted by an authoritarian oil state in a city, Dubai, known for skyscrapers and extravagant, energy-hungry consumerism.

The president of the summit, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, is the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which is planning a US$150bn oil and gas expansion. The United Arab Emirates is also investing in renewables – its Noor Energy 1 concentrated solar thermal plant is bigger than 6,000 football fields – but a more prominent sight in central Dubai is the world’s biggest gas-fired power plant.

With this setup, what could possibly go wrong? A few things, as it turned out. A few also went right. Whether you judge the result as more good or bad in part depends on expectations coming in.

The event was held across a site built to host a recent World Expo. It was readymade for a massive trade fair, which is what the annual climate conference has become for most delegates. More than 150 world leaders turned up at the start, some arriving on private jets and staying only a few hours. Anthony Albanese, under pressure at home on multiple fronts, was not among them. Neither were Joe Biden or Xi Jinping. But this was mostly not a leaders’ event.

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