When 28-year old Maja Parsberg Madsen left her home in Copenhagen on Friday, she didn't take her mobile phone. She expected to be arrested for blockading a meeting of around 40 ministers from around the world.
Instead, she ended up inside Moltke’s Palace, meeting with Cop27 president and Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry.
Madsen’s planned blockade was one of two, organised by Extinction Rebellion Denmark to protest climate inaction. The other was broken up by police and after ministers entered the building, Madsen's group dispersed and she turned her attention to the meeting.
She told Climate Home: “We were really trying to be loud, make disruption, make some noise.” Then a police officer approached the protestors and said the Egyptian foreign minister had invited two of them in for a meeting.
Keen to get their points across and wary of being accused of not being constructive, they accepted the invitation. Madsen and fellow activist Birgitte Ringgaard Diget were searched and escorted into a side room of the palace where they shook hands with Shoukry and sat down for 15 minutes.
According to both, they asked him whether he supported climate justice (answer: yes), whether he believed the IPCC report (answer: yes) and whether he thinks GDP cannot continue to be the main goal of how you measure wealth and success (answer: Egypt has to develop economically).
Shoukry then went into the press conference and told the media he “had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of the civil society groups who are demonstrating outside the venue” and he was “moved by their energy, motivation and continued principled position to motivate governments”.
He said he would “assure them and all other stakeholders that Cop27 will be an inclusive Cop where all actors will be welcomed”. Asked by a Danish journalist why he had met with activists who had tried to storm the meeting, he said “they are the future” and that they had seen “eye to eye”.
Back in Egypt, protestors don’t get such praise. Recently, three TikTokers who posted a satirical video about high food prices were arrested and a government critic reportedly died in police custody with torture marks on his corpse.
More mundanely, the Egyptian tourism ministry has established a list of minimum prices hotels should charge for rooms in Sharm el-Sheikh during Cop27, raising a barrier for delegates from poor countries to attend.
Madsen and Diget both criticised Egypt’s human rights record and suspected Shoukry was trying to polish his image through their meeting. “Our first thought was that it was actually part of a greenwashing process,” said Madsen.
From the ministerial itself, there were precious few outcomes. Alok Sharma said that some countries had promised to update their NDCs and today said that they must do so by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September.
"We need every nation to pick up the pace, we need every leader to show that their words were not hollow", Sharma said today. In the following press conference, he then dodged a question on whether he agreed with UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s reported view that gas should be classified as a green investment, as it is in the EU.
In Copenhagen, Sharma announced that a high-level expert group on investment and climate action would be set up, co-chaired by British economist Nicholas Stern and Cameroonian economist Vera Songwe. It would "develop policy options to encourage and enable the investment and finance necessary for delivery of the Paris agreement", he said.
He added that Germany’s climate diplomat Jennifer Morgan and Canada’s environment minister Steven Guillbeaut, both ex-activists, would coordinate a progress update on the delivery plan of the $100bn climate finance goal. This will be out at, or before, Cop27, a Cop26 spokesperson told Climate Home.
On South-Africa style Just Energy Transition Partnerships, Sharma hinted today that deals with Indonesia and Vietnam were in the works. He said both countries had significant economic growth, rising energy demand and potential for solar and wind energy.