Attendees of this year’s UN climate conference in Egypt found themselves stepping over streams of foul-smelling fluid Wednesday after a pipe or tank holding liquid waste appeared to have burst near one of the venue’s main thoroughfares.
The incident was the latest of several infrastructure and planning problems that have emerged this week during the conference, which runs through Nov. 18. Participants have complained that basic necessities such as drinking water and food are not available or require lengthy queuing under the simmering Sinai sun. Floors sometimes buckle and toilet paper in the various venues has frequently run out.
The problems raise broader issues about planning for an event meant to help solve climate change and promote green living.
Giant AC units blow cold air into vast tent-like buildings with little insulation and doors wide open. Empty rooms are brightly lit into the night. Solar panels, wind turbines or electric vehicles are hard to find.
The event’s Egyptian hosts didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Questions around sustainability have dogged U.N. climate meetings for years. For example, during the meeting in Katowice, Poland, in 2018, hot air had to be pumped into the prefabricated buildings to keep participants warm in sub-zero temperatures. Last year in Glasgow, Scotland, the plastic wrapping of sandwiches and drinks being stored in open refrigerated units raised eyebrows.
Responding to criticism, many recent hosts have highlighted their efforts to keep the talks green, with vegan food, recycling containers and various “carbon offsets” for unavoidable emissions caused by the conference.
This year’s meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort by the Red Sea, drew 33,449 participants at the last count, many of whom arrived by plane.