It’s not only fossil fuel lobbyists and country representatives at the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt. There are also people trying to make a difference by setting an example. Take Dan Hodd, for instance.
Hodd is a British violinist currently at COP where he arrived as part of a sustainable, ten-year tour around six continents. He’s always traveling by train, bicycle, or hitchhiking to reduce his carbon emissions. I caught up with him and asked him about his project.
Like many others, Hodd points out that this year’s biggest climate conference doesn’t seem to be fertile land for progress.
“It’s a really bizarre COP. I feel uncomfortable, frustrated, anxious, and useless here. There’s no activism allowed so I can’t communicate the issues that the world is facing. I’m here to motivate people and push from the outside but any attempts to do that have been rejected,” he said in an interview.
He also points out that ironically, the city where the conference is hosted (Sharm El Sheikh) is really not a very climate-friendly one, especially when it comes to transportation.
“You need to apply to do a protest 36 hours in advance and many times they are rejected. This adds up to the challenges of moving around the city, which is not designed to walk or cycle. I only had one chance to make music, it’s heartbreaking.”
Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Most of that comes from road travel (cars, buses, and trucks carrying freight), followed by aviation and shipping. As transport demand is expected to increase in the coming decades, efforts are underway to reduce the sector’s emissions and eventually reach low-carbon transport. Can one inspiring story truly make a difference against all of this?
The power of example
Originally from Brighton, on the south coast of the UK, Hodd holds an undergraduate degree in music and a master’s in music psychology. His family never had a car, so he has always had a strong connection with alternative ways of transportation, such as cycling. After graduating, Hodd decided to explore the world while doing it as sustainably as possible.
It’s been six years and 65 countries since then, and Hodd wants to continue for another four years, hoping to reach a total of 100 countries – always without flying. He’s done a full tour of the UK and has also been to Spain, France, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean (hitchhiking in sailing boats), and more recently the Islamic world, his “new fascination.”
After attending COP25 in Spain and COP26 in the UK, Hodd wanted to make his way to the COP27 venue (in Egypt) from Spain. However, this was more difficult than expected. He spent months planning his route and finally found the best option was first reaching Iraq by train, then hitchhike through Kuwait, and finally take a ferry through the Red Sea to Sharm El Sheikh.
He’s been at COP27 for over a week and planning to stay until the end of this Friday. He has two film directors from the Netherlands following him around for a future documentary of his journey while also collaborating with Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion. He’s been attending events at COP and says to be frustrated over the lack of real climate action so far.
Traditionally, COPs are not just about high-end negotiation, though that’s obviously the core aspect. Activists, researchers, and people who have important stories to tell often use this event to make their voices heard and make a difference against climate change.
You’d expect Hodd to fall into this category.
However, despite all this work, he doesn’t really feel like he’s making a difference. In fact, he has some very harsh words about what’s going on in Egypt.
“I have been struggling to feel hopeful in this COP. It’s the most depressing one I’ve been to. I feel powerless. Loss and damage is on the table but it seems they want to put it under the rug, all taking place behind closed doors. It’s very hard to find out what is going on. There are death warrants being signed at this conference. There are people in suits that are signing death warrants for tens of millions of people in the next 20 to 30 years. They are choosing capital gains over human lives.”
It’s hard to disagree with him. So far the conference hasn’t shown any indications of commitment from rich countries to tackle the climate crisis, which gets worse and worse — especially for developing countries. For Hodd, his project carries on once COP27 finishes. He is planning to go to Cairo first, take trains down the Nile and connect with a ferry in Sudan.