Regional mentors explain their vision for Australia’s environment in 2030

Cosmos talked to three very different environmental award recipients – a teacher from Quirindi in New South Wales, a reef expert in Far North Queensland and a community energy group in Victoria – about their expectations for the future of Australia’s climate.

Wilfrid MacBeth, Quirindi, New South Wales

Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division 2023

For service to the community through a range of roles

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Wilfrid MacBeth believes individuals can make a difference. Image by Peter Hardin, Northern Daily Leader.

Wilfrid MacBeth has been a teacher for 62 years and spent decades caring for the land in New South Wales.

He was this year awarded an OAM for his work in the community, including planting more than 3000 trees for wildlife corridors and as founder and coordinator of the Yearinan Landcare Group. He has also removed thousands of bags of rubbish from the roadside over the past 15 years.

He has been the Citizen of the Year for both Liverpool Plains (2017) and Coonabarabran (1999).

Q: What is your climate vision for 2030?

“I can’t get used to the idea that if we don’t do all these things then the world is going to implode.

“I really think it’s not going to be very much different from where we are now. Fires, floods and droughts are maybe going to be a bit more severe.

“I’m not a doomsday person, I like to look on the brighter side.

“I think we have got to stay more or less on track in reducing emissions. I would like to see that persisted with without destroying the economy.”

Q: How do we get there?

“Australia is just a minnow as far as pollution goes. Until China and India and other big polluters come on side, I can’t see very much happening.

“I just do what I can do to live without creating huge emissions. We have planted 3000-4000 trees and go along the road and pick up roadside litter. I hate picking up litter but I hate the look of it.

“If individuals can do these sorts of things it will make a difference, however slight.”

Also in Cosmos: Will the regions have a voice on climate change in parliament?

Dr Adam Smith

Environmental Excellence & Sustainability Award, Townsville Shire Council 2023

Dr Adam Smith is at James Cook University in Townsville, and the CEO of Townsville company Reef Ecologic.

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Dr Adam Smith would like to see Australia become world leaders in climate action. Image courtesy of Townsville City Council.

He was recognised by Townsville Shire Council for his “outstanding contribution to research and conservation initiatives in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park”.

“He is recognised for his countless hours of volunteering and leading community education initiatives around the Great Barrier Reef.”

The award also noted Smith’s dedication to community initiatives such as improving the environmental footprint of his hometown, and mentoring students.

Q: What is your climate vision for 2030?

“Australians are world leaders in climate action by 2030 and have achieved net zero emissions through leadership and collaboration between government, businesses and communities.

“I would also like to see Australia’s ranking on the Climate Change Performance Index moved from 55th in 2023 to 10th in 2030.”

Q: How do we get there?

“It has to be a priority for all Australians and needs to be resourced with leadership, expertise, time, money and reductions in our current way of living.

“We are talking a lot about the Voice – I suggest we also talk about a national position for ‘Australians’ sustainable future’.

“This must include greenhouse gas reductions, habitat restoration and sustainability goals.

“I believe it must also be led by individuals and communities and business, not government.

“I am a believer that if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it, so a simple indicator for individuals and businesses such as an Ecological Footprint calculator and if you are below a certain threshold e.g 10 tonnes GG emissions per annum, you have a tax break. If you are over 50 tonnes GG emissions per annum you pay a climate tax.

“This money is used to invest in positive actions such as renewables, protected areas, capacity building and transition.

“Apparently the average emissions per Australian is approximately 17 tonnes.

“I am also a believer that organisations such as churches, schools, universities and sporting clubs often set the agenda for behaviours and we need to help these groups be leaders and be carbon neutral.

“We also have to make some hard decisions for the future. I suggest we also have one day a week without electricity (Earth Hour is very tokenistic) and we need to do more at home and business (unless homes or businesses are 100 percent carbon neutral). Similarly I suggest no travel by planes on Sundays (unless individual travellers or businesses are 100 percent carbon neutral).”

Mitchell Community Energy, Mitchell, Victoria

Councillor Award, Mitchell Shire Council 2023

Mitchell Community Energy is a volunteer organisation that aims to develop a greater awareness of climate change.

The group was recognised for its work in reducing financial and environmental costs for the community, and its efforts in promoting a more sustainable way of life in Mitchell.

One of the group’s projects was advocating for the installation of a 99KW solar system on the Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre in June 2019, a move that has reduced emissions and saved Council more than $118,000.

The group has also been involved in creating Mitchell Shire home sustainability audit kits. Cosmos spoke to Mitchell Community Energy Secretary, Jeff Wilmot

Q: What is your climate vision for 2030?

“I have seen a couple of [climate] action plans full of descriptions of the town and the people and their aims in general terms.

“We should get down to numbers and measurements.

“I haven’t even seen an action plan from the Federal Government – that’s what I would like to see happen.

“Where there are good plans, we are already getting a reduction in those places.”

Q: How do we get there?

“I believe in having an action place for something to work towards.

“At the moment, we are working on an action plan for climate change with Mitchell Shire Council, with a Climate Emergency Community Reference Group as part of that.

“The aim is zero emissions by 2050, and we are trying to do what we can in the near future.”

“Among the practical methods (that) make a difference at local level are the installation of solar power, both on public and private buildings, tree planting to cool the environment and persuading households to change from gas to renewable energy.

“These are all things that should go into an action plan,” he says.

“We can then look at what all this achieves and how much progress we have made by 2030.”

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