“50 years of Greenpeace” — My interview with their spokesperson in Catalonia

   [This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2021.]

1. What is your name (and position?)


Fernando Fernández, Mobilization Coordinator of Greenpeace in Catalonia.


2. What do you think is currently the most important issue for Greenpeace in Catalunya and what is Greenpeace doing about this issue?


For Greenpeace, the most important issues in Catalonia today are the scarce implementation of renewable energies as well as the impact on biodiversity derived from intensive livestock and agriculture or the urbanization of natural areas, among others. In this sense, Greenpeace asks the Government of the Generalitat for an accelerated energy transition in which energy communities and the self-production and self-consumption of renewable energy have a very important weight, as well as the need to implement aid and subsidies to achieve solarization and make energy efficient buildings and houses throughout Catalonia, among others. On the other hand from Greenpeace we ask the Catalan Government that before 2030 30% of the country’s agriculture is ecological reaching 100% in 2050 as this sector is also one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases globally. That said, from Greenpeace we will work this coming year to ensure that European funds from the Next Generation EU are used in a real ecological transition that makes our society a fairer and healthier place to live and serve to reverse the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis that we already have on top of us.

3. What other specific concerns do you have at a local, town or city level?


At a local level from Greenpeace, through the Hack your City campaign, we will focus this year on the world capital of sustainable food held by Barcelona. Barcelona is one of the great centers of food consumption and we know that cities through their consumption are global generators of more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore necessary for Barcelona to be a driving force to change the way we feed ourselves, thus encouraging an increase in the production of organic and local food products. A food system that not only does not harm the planet, but also ensures that producers get a fair price for the work they do. On the other hand, Greenpeace will continue to support those organizations and social movements that work to make Barcelona a place where pedestrians, bicycles and public transport are the norm and where the private car is the exception. Urban mobility is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the city, not to mention the detrimental health effects of the polluting gases emitted by vehicles. Of the thousand cities analyzed in the latest IES Global study, Barcelona ranks sixth in the number of deaths caused by pollution.

4. Has Greta Thunberg’s work had an effect on environmental activism in Catalunya?


There is no doubt about it. In Catalonia, the Fridays for Future movement has had an enormous impact, mobilizing and raising awareness among thousands of people in favor of a change in climate policies. Today, traditional environmental organizations and youth movements work hand in hand and carry out joint campaigns to influence political institutions and citizens. The emergence of Fridays for Future has undoubtedly been a very important and positive phenomenon for everyone.

5. What is the connection between consumption and the environment?


The connection between consumption and the environment is twofold. On the one hand, material consumption and on the other hand, energy consumption. Both consumptions have an enormous impact on both ecosystems and climate. That is why our societies, and in particular the rich societies of the Global North, have to change their consumption patterns and adapt to what the planet has to offer. There is no planet B, and our biosphere has a series of limits that we are exceeding, which is why we find ourselves in the current situation of climatic and ecological emergency. Therefore, moving towards a society and an economic model that does not depend on the constant and increasing consumption of material and energy resources is essential to take care of the environment.

6. How much is hyper-capitalism a cause of the planet’s continuing destruction?


Hyper-capitalism and the economic and life model associated with it is undoubtedly one of the major causes of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. This is why we must move towards an economic model that has at its core the conception of the biophysical limits of the planet and that does not place mass consumerism as the central pillar of our social systems.

7. What can the ordinary person do on a daily basis to help the environment? And on a longer scale?


People can do a multitude of things in their daily lives to improve the environment or at least not make it worse. For example, not consuming single-use plastics, trying to move around cities and between cities on foot, by bicycle or by non-polluting public transport, consuming organic and local food products, or switching to renewable energies, among others. However, we must be aware that the fight does not only involve a change of habits on a personal level in terms of our consumption, but that the changes we need are of a structural nature and for this we need politics. We need people to get together, think, act, mobilize and put pressure on the big companies that pollute the planet and cause more loss of biodiversity and more global warming. And the same with the political class. We need people to push and demand more ambitious climate targets and financial resources to be able to implement the structural change measures we need.

8. What do you think about Ada Colau’s policies in Barcelona?


From Greenpeace we think that Ada Colau’s City Council, if we compare it with the rest of the big City Councils of the state, is one of the ones that has made more policies on the environment and climate change. That said, and taking into account that the rest of the big city councils have not done much, Barcelona has to be much braver in its public policies. For example, more courage is needed to curb pollution in Barcelona by increasing the pedestrianization of the city, extending the width of the bike lanes or implementing as soon as possible the entrance toll to the city. Pollution in Barcelona generates a major public health problem and, as we said before, private vehicles are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the city.

On the other hand, Barcelona has to do much more and use more public resources in solarization of buildings and energy efficiency. The city council has committed some budget items which is a step forward but the commitment is not enough if we want to see a real transition to renewable energy in the city and stop relying on fossil gas and combined cycle power plants and nuclear energy. Barcelona also needs to improve its waste collection system. To date, at least three neighborhoods in the city have announced their intention to introduce a door-to-door collection system and public statements have been made and some measures have been taken to eradicate single-use plastics in the city. However, Barcelona needs to do much more. It needs to extend the door-to-door model throughout the city, get the hotel and catering industry to move away from single-use plastics through agreements and incentives, and put pressure on the Generalitat de Catalunya to introduce the SDDR system in its new waste law to improve the current dysfunctional system operated under the monopoly of Ecoembes. Finally, and as we have said before, Barcelona must promote sustainable food in the city by ensuring that all public canteens under municipal jurisdiction reduce the consumption of meat in their daily menus and ensuring that they only serve local, organic and seasonal products. At the same time it is essential to favor short circuits of production and consumption by promoting distribution centers in the city and ensuring that in each municipal market in the neighborhoods of Barcelona there are stands of seasonal, organic and proximity fruit and vegetables.

9. What is Greenpeace doing to catch/convince more climate crisis sceptics?


At Greenpeace we continue to do our work as we have been doing for decades. That is, we continue to denounce the aggressions against the environment that are committed around the planet, the dysfunctions of the system and the necessary changes to solve them, we continue to practice non-violent direct action, we do political communication to get our messages to the public and we do political lobbying at all levels of government to achieve the necessary changes. However, it is clear to us at Greenpeace that skepticism is a thing of the past. Today society already knows and is clear that we have a serious problem that must be solved and that this problem is called climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.

10. What optimistic signs/changes are you seeing (if any?)


As we said in the answer to the previous question, one of the reasons for optimism is that the public is much more aware of the problem than it was decades ago. And that makes the pressure on governments and companies much greater and makes it much more difficult for them to continue with climate change denialist policies. Today we also see how some large companies are beginning to change their lines of business thanks to the pressure that the environmental movement has been doing for decades, although it is true that we must be vigilant against the Greenwhasing of many of them. We also see progress in public policies of the EU or the State Government. Advances that, although they represent steps in the right direction, are still totally insufficient, as for example the Spanish government’s emission reduction targets for 2030, a ridiculous 23% far from the 55% required by science. The Spanish State and the Autonomous Communities have an opportunity to ensure that the European Recovery Funds are allocated to a real ecological transition that makes the funds serve to put the lives of people and the planet at the center, achieving a real transformation of the system. It is important that the funds permeate into society, into small and medium enterprises and the social and solidarity economy and that they are invested in truly transformative sectors and not captured by a handful of large companies.We need to turn the system around if we are to have any chance of avoiding a warming above 1.5 degrees and that optimism does not wane into a kind of collective panic.


11. Are there any programs/projects outside Greenpeace in Catalunya that you support? Why?


Today Greenpeace is part of various platforms such as the Xarxa per a Justícia Climàtica and gives formal support to others such as the ZeroPort platform as well as movements that try to prevent the urbanization of coastal areas as the SOS Costa Daurada Platform, the protection of the Ebro Delta, etc.. Although we can not be everywhere and in all the problems, we try to support as much as possible to the groups that fight for the defense of the environment in the territory.

12. What’s next for the future of your organisation?

As I have already commented in the previous answers, Greenpeace will continue working in the coming years so that the Recovery Funds are allocated to a true green and fair ecological transition and will continue to fight to put an end to fossil fuels such as natural gas. We will also continue working to ensure that our cities are the vanguard in the fight against climate change as well as in recovering the rural part of the country as a way to protect biodiversity. We need to reduce our Co2 emissions to the maximum and we need healthy and resilient ecosystems in the face of the change that we already have. By 2040, the country has to be completely decarbonized and that transition cannot leave anyone behind. That is our goal.

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