SHARM EL-SHEIKH (AP) – She has pedaled thousands of miles from Sweden to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to deliver a simple message: Stop climate change.
The trip took 72-year-old activist Dorothee Hildebrandt and her pink e-bike — which she fondly calls Miss Piggy — more than four months. She crisscrossed Europe and the Middle East until she arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
Her mission is to raise awareness and urge world leaders gathered at the annual UN climate conference known as COP27 to take concrete steps to stop climate change, she said. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and scientists say the amount of heat-trapping gases needs to be almost halved by 2030, to meet temperature-limiting goals of the Paris climate accord of 2015.
Since her arrival a week ago, Hildebrandt and her e-bike have become a fixture at the summit. From a friend’s place where she is staying, some 15 kilometers from the conference venue, she bikes to the city center every day, meeting other activists, attending events.
“They really have to stop climate change,” Hildebrandt says of the world leaders. “Even if it is uncomfortable,” it has to be done — for the sake of the future.
“It was uncomfortable for me ... this long ride,” she told The Associated Press. But she wanted to show that if there’s a will, “you can do it,” she said.
Past climate talks have traditionally seen very large protests at the end of the first week of the two-week summit, often drawing thousands. This year has been mostly muted, with sporadic and small demonstrations during the first week. Activists have blamed high cost of travel, accommodation and restrictions in the isolated Egyptian city for limiting numbers of demonstrators.
The largest demonstration so far was on Saturday, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden made his stop at the summit. Hundreds of protesters chanted, sang, and danced in an area not far from where the negotiations were taking place amid tight security.
Born in the town of Kassel in central Germany, Hildebrandt says she got her first bicycle at the age of 10 and never stopped pedaling. In 1978 she moved with her husband to Sweden, where she worked cleaning houses and then trained in taking care of the elderly and people with disabilities.
She retired more than a decade ago. Her activism and biking, which she documents on social media, is for her two grandchildren, she says. A sign on her bike reads, “Biking for Future and Peace.”