COP28 is finally upon us. The biggest show on earth started on Thursday, November 30, in Dubai, attended by 165 heads of state and more than 97,000 delegates from over 200 countries.

For the first time fossil fuel companies are participating ‘en masse’, in numbers much higher than in any other COP before. They will be under immense pressure and how they respond will be critical to the success of the summit.

This makes it the biggest COP ever. As Simon Stiell, executive secretary UN Climate Change, said in opening the proceedings, over the next 12 days COP will “note the lack of progress, tweak our current best practices and encourage ourselves to do more ‘at some point in time’… We decide at what point we will have made everyone on the planet safe and resilient. We decide to fund this transition properly including the response to loss and damage. And we decide to commit to a new energy system.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in Dubai “We are living through climate collapse in real time, and the impact is devastating.”

In his summit opening speech he called for “dramatic climate action” in three areas: drastically cut emissions, phase out fossil fuels and accelerate transition to renewables, climate justice by committing to finance adaptation and ‘loss and damage’.

COP28 comes towards the end of the hottest year on record, with many extreme weather and climate-related records broken, focusing minds on the importance and gravity of the decisions that must be made by December 12.

COP28 must grapple with global warming, stemming carbon and methane emissions and accelerating energy transition, the future of fossil fuels, financing adaptation, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the ‘loss and damage fund’, tripling renewables capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

“The reality is that without much more finance flowing to developing countries, a renewables revolution will remain a mirage in the desert. COP28 must turn it into a reality,” Stiell said

By 2024, in COP29, countries must report on progress made to cut emissions and achieve their climate change pledges, agree by COP29 how to finance the transition and, at COP30 in 2025, deliver new ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) and commit on finance, adaptation and mitigation, in line with a 1.5°C world.

Right now most nations are not on track to meet their 2030 pledges and the world is on the way to reach close to 3°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

In a report, just released, the Rhodium Group says that even though “we’ve avoided the most catastrophic projections,” without change the world climate future will still be dire.

An area that notched early success is the setting up of the ‘loss and damage fund’ to help developing countries withstand climate impacts. Delegates agreed on details for running the fund and developed countries have already pledged $260m.

Another positive sign is that the US and China have agreed to address and cut methane and other emissions and support a target to triple renewables. Oil and gas companies are also close to supporting an initiative targeting ‘near-zero’ methane emissions by 2030. Earlier in the week, ExxonMobil agreed to join the UN’s flagship methane emissions reporting programme.

But wars in Europe and the Middle East and continuing global economic problems are casting a shadow.

This promises to be the most decisive COP in terms of climate commitment expectations and agreeing actions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Charles Ellinas, @CharlesEllinas, is a senior fellow at the Global Energy Centre of the Atlantic Council