Home » Interview | Egyptian adventurer Ali Abdo prepares for new electric bike expedition to COP29

Interview | Egyptian adventurer Ali Abdo prepares for new electric bike expedition to COP29

by Madaline Dunn

In an effort to drive climate action, in the last few years, Egyptian adventurer and environmental activist Ali Abdo has dedicated himself to the self-founded “Ride To 2030” initiative. Through the initiative, the world record holder travels on an electric motorcycle across the globe towards each year’s host country of the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP).

Abdo, awarded the title of “Ambassador of Sustainable Development” by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Egypt, seeks to spread awareness and promote sustainable practices through the initiative.  

On his next trip, Abdo plans to travel from the UAE to Azerbaijan, the host of COP29.

ESG Mena spoke to Ali Abdo to hear more about his upcoming trip to Azerbaijan and his message to inspire and encourage others to embrace environmental action.

Ali, tell us about yourself and your ties to sustainability.

I am 39 years old, and I live in Alexandria; my last job was as director of the social responsibility department at IBM; I specialise in the field of climate change and received the title of Ambassador for Sustainable Development from the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Egypt. 

I am also the first Arab to set a record for driving an electric vehicle and founded the “Ride To 2030” initiative.

How did the idea come about? 

I started travelling by bike in 2013, about 11 years ago, and my goal at that time was to get to know the different regions and learn more about the people that lived there, their customs, traditions, and history.

Since 2020, I’ve been using my electric bike for awareness trips about the Sustainable Development Goals in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

How many trips have you taken to support sustainability, and what inspired you to do so?

I have made many trips, but in the last four years, my activities have been focused on supporting the Sustainable Development Goals; most notable was the trip I made to the COP27 climate summit. 

I visited many Egyptian governorates and regions to raise awareness of climate change, document challenges and opportunities in climate action, and highlight the various success stories.

Upon arrival, I was received by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and our initiative was recognised as one of the prominent initiatives to combat climate change at COP.

Last year, I made a trip from Egypt to the UAE, the host country of COP28, where I passed through many Arab countries to educate young people about climate change issues. 

This trip was under the auspices of the Presidency of COP27, the League of Arab States, and a number of government agencies in Egypt and Arab countries.

What excited me was that I found many young people are eager to join climate action in innovative and simple ways, and benefited from their collaborative efforts with those of governments and civil society organisations.

How important are these initiatives in supporting sustainability goals and environmental issues?

In my view, individuals are the basis of any change, and any initiative aimed at changing individuals’ behaviour and making them aware of a pressing issue will have a significant impact. 

For example, over the last three years, I was able to achieve four records in the Guinness Book of World Records, including for the greatest distance driven on an electric motorcycle in 24 hours, the longest trip in the world on an electric motorcycle, the longest trip in the world on an electric motorcycle within one country, and the largest number of cities visited on an electric motorcycle in a continuous trip.

The initiative received great attention in both local and international media, which helped to spread the message and further its impact through the universities and schools attended by young people.

How many people usually participate in your trips?

My team consists of four people who are with me to support and document the trip, film the stories we collect and the interviews we conduct, and help implement activities in the places we visit.

What is your plan for the next trip to Azerbaijan?

At COP28, I announced that I will travel to the climate summit in Azerbaijan, and I will continue the trips until 2030, with the aim of visiting as many countries as possible to raise awareness about the issue of climate change and urge people to participate in the change.

This year, we will depart from the UAE to Azerbaijan, and I will pass through a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey and Georgia, where I will visit schools and universities and establish partnerships with civil society and governments to strengthen the fight against climate change.

Are there any challenges you faced during your last trip to COP28?

The trips we are undertaking are the first of their kind, so they must be well prepared; they require months of work, preparation, and coordination with all the different parties in each country.

We always face problems related to financing because it is not easy to convince sponsors or entities to support a new activity. This is in addition to the steps we must take to obtain visas, pass between countries, and implement activities in each country due to the differences in laws and rules from one country to another. However, we try to have a community partner in each state to assist us with this. 

What’s ahead regarding your initiatives related to environmental awareness and supporting sustainability?

My current plan is to continue the initiative’s activities throughout the year, such as holding trips within the country to support environmental and climate action, encourage green entrepreneurship, and provide youth with the necessary skills to achieve sustainable development.

By Hadeer Elhadary, Lead Journalist, ESG Mena – Arabic

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