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

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.

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

“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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Swedish youths launch landmark climate lawsuit against government

Over 600 Swedish children and young people - including climate activist Greta Thunberg and three seven-year-olds - are suing the Swedish state for doing too little to combat climate change.

Swedish youths launch landmark climate lawsuit against government

The so-called Aurora law suit has been in preparation for two years, and the group is accusing the government of, among other things, failing to carry out investigations into how large a percentage of the global work to combat the climate crisis Sweden should be responsible for.

“If the state’s climate measures are lacking, they are threatening our human rights in the future,” law student Ida Edling told Dagens Nyheter (DN), the newspaper which first reported the story.

“It’s a legal responsibility which the state can be legally called to account for. That’s why we’re suing them,” she said.

Edling is one of the people behind the initiative, which climate activist Greta Thunberg is also involved with.

Aurora would have launched their lawsuit no matter which political bloc had won September’s election, Edling said.

“We’ve worked on this for two years and would have sued any government which is not working towards a climate policy in line with Sweden’s fair share of the global climate transition,” she said. “That includes the previous government.”

On Friday, she marched to the Stockholm courthouse to file the lawsuit alongside young people from Aurora and other members of the climate and environment movement.

“In a state with the rule of law, everyone has to follow the law. Even the government,” Edling said. “When the state’s climate policy threatens our human rights, it breaks the law.”

Climate minister Romina Pourmokhtari told DN via her press secretary that she had no comments on the case.

Similar suits have been brought forward in other European countries. In Germany and the Netherlands, climate activists won against the respective governments in court, forcing both countries to sharpen their climate targets.