STUDENTS representing the Youth Parliament on Sustainability today gave Members of the Legislative Assembly 24 suggestions for how Canberra could be more sustainable and meet its carbon emission targets.
The 24 points were narrowed down from the hard work of about 120 high school and college students who took part in the environmentally focused mock parliament, and delivered in a 58-page white paper to the Assembly’s Planning, Environment and Territory and Municipal Services Committee, chaired by Labor MP Mick Gentleman.
“We’ve had a fantastic presentation here today from the Youth Parliament on Sustainability with some really innovative ideas on where we should be going in the future,” Mr Gentleman told “CityNews” after the meeting. “I think all of the members of the committee really took on board all the proposals and we’re going to work hard on them.”
The Youth Parliament on Sustainability formed part of the 2020 Vision project run by government-sponsored sustainability group SEE-Change, and won funding through the budget for last year’s Centenary celebrations.
Its members eventually agreed on three proposals for MLAs to consider, in eight different policy areas: transport, water, urban planning, smarter buildings, food, energy, waste and CO2 reduction, as well as lifestyle and human systems.
The 24 proposals look toward generally improving sustainability as well as meeting the ACT Government’s legislated carbon emission targets, which are the most ambitious in the country, aiming for a 40 per cent reduction on 1990’s CO2 output, by 2020, with the final goal of zero emissions by 2060.
The venerable Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, founder of Australia 21 and joint founder of SEE-Change, joined the Parliament of Youth’s ministerial delegation along with SEE-Change project officer Anne Quinn.
“I’d always felt that one of the most important parts of the [SEE-Change] intiative would be to involve young people,” Dr Douglas said. “Down in the schools is the place to start, which is why we worked on a Youth Parliament, but it was the kids that made it; they were absolutely brilliant.”
The Youth Parliament’s Transport Minister, Emma Fish, who graduated from year 12 at Lake Ginninderra College last year, believes that in general, younger people are naturally engaged with sustainability.
“We’re the ones who are going to have to grow up in this world and we don’t want to have to live in a world that’s full of waste .. we want to be growing up and having our own children in a safe environment,” she said.
Her colleague Alessandra Carrera, a ‘sustainability captain’ at Merici and Minister for Food in the Youth Parliament, sees the difficulty in getting people to change the way they live.
“You’ve got to change the pattern of behaviour first; that’s really what you’ve got to break down,” Alessandra said. “We’ve evolved to be very consumerist at the moment but that’s not a sustainable way to live.”
Burgmann College student and the Youth Parliament’s Minister for Urban Planning, Sophie Fitch, said it was important to young people that work on solutions to the big environmental problems of the future started as soon as possible.
“I think a lot of people care, but they don’t know how to act,” Sophie said. “Young people are very action-based so we want to see stuff happen but I think for a lot of young people, it’s hard to know where to start, hard to know how to get involved with this kind of stuff, or how they can directly make a difference, so I think, things like this where we can all contribute and young people’s opinions are taken into account are really good, because it’s going to be our world.
“This is where we’re growing up and we’re going to have to take the reins at some point.”