I rise tonight to speak about a meeting I held in my capacity as Chair of the Planning, Environment and Territory and Municipal Services committee with student ministers from the Parliament of Youth on Sustainability. The Parliament of Youth on Sustainability is an initiative held by SEE-Change where 162 students from 24 schools in the ACT this year gathered to present and debate their green paper proposals to tackle climate change.

The youth parliament was held in June at the Australian National University. Of the 43 proposals presented at the parliament, 11 were selected to be announced to our ACT Legislative Assembly colleagues, Minister Corbell, Minister Rattenbury and Ms Lawder. Of the 11 presented, the final six proposals were voted to be included in the parliament white paper. It was these final six proposals that I and our Deputy Chair, Mr Coe, were privileged enough to have had presented to us.

The student ministers who spoke to us ranged in year levels from kindie to year 12. All of the student ministers were impressively articulate and it was fantastic to see how passionate they were about their proposals. I mention three in particular that caught my eye. Minister Bethan Pitt of Red Hill Primary School in the kindergarten to year 3 age group suggested that on 1 October every year everybody, if they want to, plant a tree.

Bethan’s proposal aims to tackle the issue of pollution in the atmosphere as trees absorb carbon dioxide and other potentially harmful gases from the air and release oxygen. In the year 7 to year 9 group, Minister Michael Bui of Daramalan College proposed that ACT primary schools adopt a campaign called Kick Down the Habits. Michael’s campaign is based on his theory that a lack of action on climate change stems from a lack of awareness about the impact of our individual and household resource use. Kick down the habits proposes to educate primary schoolchildren about their carbon footprint and the simple changes they can make each day to collectively reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the ACT.

This was a great proposal that looks at educating our younger generation on how to tackle climate change in a cost-effective way. Minister Clea Porteous-Borthwick of Canberra Girls Grammar School presented one of the final proposals in the year 10 to year 12 group. Clea’s proposal mandated that all new buildings constructed in the ACT be built with solar panels. With the ACT population predicted to increase by 114,000 people over the next 20 years, the ACT’s energy consumption will also rise significantly. Clea’s proposal would assist the government in achieving its current aim of a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2025.

The other proposals presented by the student ministers included the promotion of locally grown produce, investment in renewable energy and the need to address the inevitable impact on human rights that climate change will have. I congratulate all 162 students involved in the parliament of youth. In particular I commend the student ministers we had the privilege to listen to. I also acknowledge and thank SEE-Change for all of their work in putting this youth parliament together. Their initiative in encouraging young students to consider the impact their lives have on our planet is very admirable.

Climate change is known to be one of the greatest challenges we face. Our response must be immediate, effective and sustainable. It was promising to see how engaged and thoughtful the students were in composing and presenting their green paper proposals. I have little doubt that Canberra will be in very good hands by the time these student ministers and their contemporaries graduate from school and become community leaders in their own right.