Giuseppe Onufrio

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INTERVIEW WITH Giuseppe Onufrio
("Greenpeace Italy" – Executive Director - h
Greenpeace International is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Nowdays, there are several threats to our Planet equilibrium: Climate change (and the related energetic topic), Wasteful and destructive fishing that threatens biodiversity in the Oceans; Deforestation and loss of Earth’s biodiversity; Nuclear weapons, civil wars and terroristic threats; Chemicals in today's products;  Intensive and irresponsible agriculture, with the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). But what are the topics on which Greenpeace focuses more? What is the biggest threat to our Planet? What can the countries (and the single citizen)  do in order to stop Climate change? Giuseppe Onufrio, Greenpeace Italy Executive Director, will answer to these and other questions.
INTERVIEW - (October 2012)
The interview was realized in October 2012 and published in November 2012 - (Our translation on the original Italian interview)
Subject: Global Ecological issues; Greenpeace mission 

Question: With about 3 million supporters worldwide, Greenpeace is one of the main environmental movements in the world. Could you give us a short description of “Greenpeace story”: when and how it was born, how did it spread over the world and how does it currently operate?

Greenpeace’ story began in Canada in 1971 as an opposition movements to the USA’s underground atomic tests in the Aleutine islands. The first action was funded by the revenues of a Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs’s concert.  The following year our protests took place in Mururoa against French experiments. Then, began the campaigns for whale’s protection and against radioactive waste dumping at sea. In 1978, when the organization was already settled in various countries, Greenpeace International was created, with a base first in London and then in Amsterdam. The Italian site was founded in 1986. Now Greenpeace is in 40 countries, from Chile to China, from India to New Zealand and South Korea. Greenpeace focuses on topics solvable only in the international contest: Climate change, Forest protection, GMO and sustainable agriculture, pollution Ocean’s protection, Peace and disarmament.

2. Question
: What is the function of “Greenpeace national sites”, and in particular of Greenpeace Italy?

Local offices work in one or more campaigns depending on the importance these topics have in their National contest. For example, some offices are important as they are directly interested in the phenomenon Greenpeace is opposing to (as Brazil, with regards to the protection of the Amazonian forest); other sites are important as they represent the market destination of products (as products related to deforestation). The latter is the case of Italy and many European countries. In other cases, the national sites have a political function, as they are important for the ratification of environmental treaties.

Question: Currently, on “which of the 6 topics” (Climate change, Oceans’ protection, Forests’ protection, Peace and disarmament, Reduction of chemicals in products, Sustainable agriculture), declared in its mission, Greenpeace International is focusing more? And on which one is Greenpeace Italy focusing more?
Currently, for both Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Italy the main priorities are “Climate, Forests and Oceans”.

4. Question
: In one of your inquiries (Blue gold in Italy), you have denounced the “blue-fish collapse” in the Adriatic sea. In general, a strong reduction in global marine biodiversity has been registered. What are, in your opinion, “the root causes” of this trend? And what are the actions Greenpeace International is implementing in order to preserve marine biodiversity?
The excess in fishing is the main cause, although marine biodiversity is also affected by water pollution and climate change. In the case of pilchards and anchovies in the Adriatic sea, the authorization of the “experimental” use of a fishing tool (called “volanti”) has been the death blow: this technique reduces the quality of the catch, so a higher quantities of fishes are required to meet the economic fundamentals. This is only an example, but, at large, it is obvious that we should fish less and better; moreover, the sea should not be considered as a rubbish bin and the marine reserves should be large enough to stabilize ecosystems and restore fishing stocks.

Question: By now, how do you judge “The progress made by countries in reducing greenhouse emissions”? What role do developed countries play in this challenge? And what is the role played by emerging countries (BRICS in particular)? What can the single citizen do?
The progress is very little so far, and if the global negotiation doesn’t change, future will be very black. The developed countries, historically more involved in climate change, must take on a major binding commitment and ask BRICS countries to play their part. But, in general, there is a lack of courage and leadership. As for citizens, they can adopt a more virtuous behavior in terms of Energy consumption by changing their lifestyle and their standards of consumption; but the real change must come in government politics that must impose new standards of emissions and push towards sustainable solutions in the market.  So, in that sense, citizens must urge governments and enterprises in taking the actions in the right direction.

6. Question
: Can you explain the content and the progress of your campaign “Save the Arctic”?
This campaign has began only recently: the environmental protection treaty in the Antarctic took some years to be concluded; the Arctic case is even more complicated. However, 2 million people around the world (90 thousand in Italy) are involved in this campaign and oil exploration by Shell and Gazprom are temporarily suspended. But the battle will be long and difficult.

7. Question
: What is the “REDD” (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and what Greenpeace is doing in order to support this initiative?
It is a framework, approved in the Convention on Climate change, to recognize the important role played by big forests in protecting our environment and our Climate. Greenpeace has fought for this framework, that is one of the few progresses made in global negotiation on the topic of Climate change.

8. Question
: Coming back to Italy, “The Ilva case” in Taranto is the symbol of the existing trade-off between the Economy (in particular occupation) and the environmental protection in the current economic models. What does Greenpeace think about this topic? And what does Greenpeace propose to solve this impasse and, more in general, to overpass the mentioned trade-off?
First of all the principle “who pollutes must pay” must be applied. In the case of a cook-fueled factory, for example, we have proved that the external costs of its pollution (as calculated by the European Environment Agency) are equal to its gross profit: as for Enel factory in Brindisi Sud, these costs account for about €600 million every years. In order to overpass the so-called trade-off between economy and environment, enterprises should abandon some obsolete technologies, in particular, with regards to electricity production, they must abandon some traditional sources as cook and use clearer and more sustainable alternative sources.

9. Question
: Recently on Nature was published an article (by James Murray and David King, - 25 January 2012 -, “Climate policy: Oil's tipping point has passed”, Nature 481, p. 433–435) in which the authors argue that the “Oil Peak” has been reached and oil is becoming a scarce source. What can the countries do in order to gain Energy reliance? And what can people do to get reliance to oil?
Governments and companies are the main responsible for such an important topic. In our scenario “Energy [R]evolution” we have proved that it is possible to live without using “Non-conventional oil” like that in the Arctic (that is also little), by associating the use of alternative sources to the use of the declining conventional oil, and so gradually building a future based only on renewable sources. As for the role played by citizens see the answer to question 5.

Question: The use of “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)” is gaining ground in the public debate and among agricultural practices. What is Greenpeace view on this important topic? And how is it acting in the International contest and in the Italian one?
We drastically oppose GMO cultivations everywhere in the world: scientific data show that these cultivations bring real risks for both the environment and the health. The “biodiversity in agriculture” is the base for a sustainable future, but its development is threaten by the GMOs. In general, it is necessary to make a conversion in the agricultural producing methods (that in the industrialized contests bring serious effects in terms of soil fertility, water waste, pollution and greenhouse emissions): in that sense there are clear studies (by the United Nations) ready to be applied.

11. Question
: Currently, many “civil wars” are breaking out around the world (especially in the African countries). In which way can the International organizations act in order to reduce the number and the ferocity of these wars? What is Greenpeace view on this topic?  
At the moment, Greenpeace works only on disputes about sources, such as conflicts between the industrial western fishing and the local traditional fishing in Senegal. We have been established in Africa only since the last year, so, at the moment, we are focusing only on few topics (nuclear in South Africa, forests in the Congo Rim, fishing in Senegal)

12 Question
: If you could sent “a message to humans”, what would you suggest in order to preserve themselves and our Planet in the long period??
Humanity has to focus on the sustainability of the “development model”;  if we don’t change the current unsustainable model, the world will become less and less livable, while countries will do wars for sources’ grabbing. The word “sustainability” is often badly used, as a passepartout: actually, sustainability means that we can exploit sources at a rate that makes the earth able to completely regenerate them (we are talking about forests, marine biodiversity, agriculture, soil and water). In the energetic field this means moving towards a model based only (100%) on renewable sources.  This is the only way to face at the same time two important challenges: that standing above our head, that is “greenhouse emission and global warming”; that below our feet, meaning the “depletion of traditional energetic sources” on which our unsustainable lifestyle has been based so far.