How Tefere Gebre Is Leading Greenpeace USA’s Evolution for Workers Rights and Climate Justice
by Annie Leonard
February 23, 2022
Greenpeace USA’s new Chief Program Officer is ready to lead the climate fight of our lifetime
To avoid worst-case scenarios of a world ravaged by climate disaster, Greenpeace must mobilize a mass movement, grounded in justice and driven by visionary leaders. And to truly make long-lasting change in both the world and in the environmental movement, we have to evolve, too.
Today – in the spirit of that evolution – We are excited to announce that Tefere Gebre has joined the organization as its new Chief Program Officer.
What is the Chief Program Officer?
Greenpeace USA’s Chief Program Officer is one of the most senior positions at the organization. As Chief Program Officer, Tefere will oversee the long-term strategy for Greenpeace’s movement building and campaign efforts — which include Climate, Democracy, Oceans/Plastics, and Forests.
Who is Tefere Gebre?
Tefere Gebre’s story is nothing short of extraordinary. Uprooted from a country torn apart by brutal conflict, he fled Ethiopia in 1982. Tefere trekked nearly 95 days across miles of desert to a refugee camp in Sudan. Alone, he embarked on an uncertain path for a better life, one that led him to the United States where he would take up for those who needed hope and the chance to thrive. With a knack for growing and inspiring teams, he built a successful career in activism and organizing.
Tefere brings nearly three decades of experience in workers’ rights, grassroots organizing, and coalition building to Greenpeace, after serving in leadership roles at the AFL-CIO and the Orange County Labor Federation. He will be Greenpeace’s first Black Chief Program Officer, and also represents workers, families, and the immigrant community.
Tefere is far more than his resume – he embodies what it means to build trust, to fight for communities, and to envision a more just future for us all. He deeply understands the views of people all across the country who are impacted by climate change, but who are often excluded from climate discussions and solutions.
With Tefere joining the leadership team, we are excited for him to be a catalyst as we work to build one of the strongest, most diverse and broad coalitions that Greenpeace has been a part of in our 50-year history. His presence at Greenpeace means that workers everywhere have an even stronger advocate in the environmental movement.
What Will Tefere and Greenpeace USA Accomplish Together?
I asked Tefere why Greenpeace USA – and why now:
“I’ve spent my life fighting for workers’ rights, but I know that none of it will matter if we don’t have a safe and stable planet to work on.
“The climate crisis is the fight of our lifetime. We have a responsibility to listen to and partner with immigrants, communities of color and more to create new and fresh approaches to the challenges we face today. My priority here at Greenpeace will be to bring those proactive, organized American workers into the fray because, just like everyone else, the climate crisis is the fight of their lifetime, too.”
As he takes up his new mantle, Tefere will work closely with our climate campaign to ensure that our climate work centers impacted workers and communities, and no one is left behind as we continue the necessary transition to clean, renewable energy. Together, we are fighting to ensure that workers and their families never have to choose between a healthy environment and a good union job.
What Does Black Leadership Mean for the Environmental Movement?
This is a moment of transformational movement power. Black, Brown, and White environmentalists are waking up and will no longer let corporate and political elites divide us. Black leaders are at the forefront of leading many expressions of social movement power today. Greenpeace acknowledged that when we named Ebony Twilley Martin as co-Executive Director. We acknowledge it now by adding Tefere as Chief Program Officer.
This is a moment of awakening, this is a moment of growth – and with Tefere in leadership, we are continuing to model the change we wish to see in the world. We are both proud and humbled to welcome him to one of the highest-ranking positions at Greenpeace.
To a green, peaceful, and more just future for all.