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Adjournment – Climate Leader’s Conference

18 September 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to share with the House a fantastic climate leaders conference I went to last week, which was intended to equip students across Tasmania with the skills to become climate leaders in their own schools and communities.

The students have been involved for some time now creating projects in their own schools that are all about making a difference for themselves, for the community and for the planet.

The conference was part of a broader Asia-Pacific youth sustainable development goals challenge, which has focused on climate action and life below water. Toby Thorpe is from Huonville High School and he is the youth facilitator at Education for Sustainability Tasmania and is the event co-ordinator for the climate leaders conference in Tasmania. That conference was supported by the Education for Sustainability Tasmania network, which has been recognised by the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise.

The day involved students from a range of schools across Tasmania - it was held at the Sustainability Learning Centre in Mt Nelson in Hobart - but events were also occurring in the north and the north-west. There were video links connecting students from those venues, which was an exciting and novel way to bring as many people and voices together across the state. It was wonderful to share with students via video link and hear from them the projects they were involved with.

There were students there from second grade to year 12. There were a great many primary school students and what I was so struck with was that all the projects they provided information about to their peers were all student-led, student-directed projects. They involved students making up their own ideas about how they could respond to the extreme changes occurring in the climate and what they could do to bring down the levels of waste, which is still finding its way, increasingly, into our oceans and damaging the very fabric of ocean life we all depend on as part of the global circulatory system that transfers oxygen and carbon dioxide and other gases and all the essential elements for human life and for animal life and plant life on the planet. Those oceans are under threat because of the increasing warming in the atmosphere.

The wonderful thing about this day for me was that children as young as second graders were passionately clear about what they were going to do. They were not stuck on problems; they were finding solutions. They were joining together with other children and with people like Toby Thorpe, who will be our Tasmanian representative at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a side conference of the party's meeting later this year in Europe. Toby Thorpe and other students, I think four other students from Tasmania, will be travelling to that conference of the parties. They will be making their contributions as the voices of the future. That was the most uplifting thing for somebody like me who feels as though I am speaking into a snow storm on climate change in this place, where people are not listening.

It was so wonderful to hear the voices of children who know this is the future that will behold them. Extreme climate change is happening. It will continue to speed up. We all have the opportunity to do what we can to reduce the most severe impacts of extreme climate change. To do what we can was the message that children have for themselves and for each other. How can we get rid of plastics at the school canteen? How can we have a paperless school? How can we have no plastic cutlery and bottles in the school playground? How can we use art to provide a message about climate change in a way that people will hear the stories? There are so many opportunities for people to connect and I want to pay my great respect to Nel Smit from Huonville High School.

Ms O'Connor - Hear, hear.

Dr WOODRUFF - She embodies what the actions of one single person can do. There are so many people now on board with this mission in Tasmania to help support the climate leaders of the future in our schools. She started that. She has brought other people along with her. It has the momentum and pace behind it now that is self-sustaining. It is the mentors, the teachers who give up their time in the schools, the parents and ultimately the students who are doing what they can to reduce their impact, to reduce the waste that they produce in their school and to take action on climate change so that we can all live in the best possible world given the circumstances that we are faced with today.

I will forever feel uplifted with the conversations I had with a young boy from fourth grade in southern Tasmania who had a gleam in his eye when he was talking about the worm farm he was producing. It was fantastic.