June 1, 2023

Some things are hard to find at the conference: hot food, water, trash cans

On the third day, the smell of hamburgers was in the air. Hungry delegates rose in the courtyard of the huge conference complex hosting this year’s United Nations World Climate Summit.

“I haven’t eaten much here,” said Silvia Moya, a Kenyan reporter with Climate Tracker, who followed her nose to a line running across the yard on Tuesday afternoon. In the foreground was a stall selling a $12 burger, the first hot meal in the area.

I laughed when I told them the maternity nurses had promised more food for Wednesday. “I’m a little late,” she said. “Ah, we are already starving.”

Days were early days, but COP27 was already joking about comparing Fyre, the disastrous 2017 music festival in the Bahamas, which saw attendees arguing over wet mattresses and cold sandwiches, as luxury mansions, barbecues and celebrities were advertised and unfulfilled.

The conference, which was held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, made many headlines, not to mention the real family. But the apparent shortage of food and water for the 40,000 delegates who attended the conference caused an audible panic.

When the conference opened on Sunday, it was the only restaurant in the room, a nearly 200-seat buffet serving takeaways to attendees.

But on Monday and Tuesday, as world leaders announced the summit and crowds grew, most climate activists, oil and gas managers, government negotiators and other dignitaries stood in hour-long queues outside the few stalls selling expensive Nescafe. Coffee and pastries which ran out in the afternoon.

World leaders weren’t in much better shape. The VIP tent where they were sitting down to deliver the speeches was empty around 6 pm. Monday.

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, began waiting to take the podium around this time, leaving her starving and delaying her speeches by more than two hours.

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