Swedish 72-year-old cycles to Egypt for climate meet

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Swedish 72-year-old cycles to Egypt for climate meet
Dorothee Hildebrandt has cycled from Sweden to the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Dorothee Hildebrant spent four months cycling 8,000km across 30 countries for the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, where she was joined by president Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi for a short bike ride.


“My long journey hasn’t always been easy, but my message to world leaders is that it doesn’t always have to be easy, but they also have to be able to take decisions which are uncomfortable,” Hildebrant told TT newswire in Sharm el-Sheikh, after arriving on the pink bike she has named “Miss Piggy”. 

Hildebrandt's effort caught the attention of international media – and as a result of Egyptian president Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, who asked to join her for a bike ride.

Human rights organisations say that Egypt is using the climate meeting as a way to greenwash the repressive regime, and the difficulties for activists to protest freely in the country have been loudly criticised.

“Egypt say that they do so much to help the climate, so I guess it looked good for him to cycle,” Hildebrandt told TT. “What can I say, I cycled with an old man."

At the end of the short bike ride, Hildebrandt turned to the president and wondered if she could ask him a question. Her request was granted, so she asked why people aren’t allowed to protest on the streets in Egypt.

“He said you can demonstrate everywhere in Egypt, but that’s not true. I didn’t dare point out that so many people are sitting in prison, I thought that might be going too far. He’s the president, after all,” she said.


COP27 has drawn to increased attention on the situation for dissidents in Egypt, where most public protests are effectively banned.

Hildebrandt has pedalled through Europe and the Middle East cycling an average of 80km per day. A pair of padded biking trousers has helped somewhat, even though her legs cramped during the evenings.

The journey hasn't been without problems - her bike has broken, and sometimes she has hitchhiked to avoid the worst hills. Hildebrandt and 'Miss Piggy' also made their way through war-torn Syria with help from a special guide.

Climate ministers from across the globe have attended COP27 which is now in its last week, and Hildebrant hopes to have a chance to talk with Sweden's climate minister, Romina Pourmokhtari.

Hildebrandt has described it as "terrible" that the Swedish government has made decisions which will cause increased emissions and make it impossible to meet the 2030 climate goals.


"Emissions need to decrease, not increase," she said. "We also need to have a conscience regarding countries from the global south which are hard hit by climate change, you can't just do what you want and think it doesn't make a difference."

She said that her hopes for COP27 are "not that high".

"I want to ask the politicians, aren't they ashamed? They sign papers at COP and then they go home and do the opposite of what they promised. They prioritise money in their own pockets instead of doing something for the climate. They have to do more."

When the climate conference is over, the plan is to cycle back to Sweden again.

"That's the idea, as long so my body can handle it. But I'm going to take some holiday along the way."


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