After two years working as a climate scientist with UNSW Canberra, Dr Sophie Lewis has been appointed as the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.
It’s been a huge couple of years Dr Lewis. In addition to teaching UNSW Canberra students, she has contributed to the latest Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change report, provided invaluable research during a horrific bushfire season, and in 2019 she was named ACT Scientist of the Year.
Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury made the announcement yesterday.
"Dr Lewis has extensive experience in researching Australia's changing climate extremes, including as a lead author with the International Climate Change Panel assessment reports that are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change,” Mr Rattenbury said.
"She also has a long history with Canberra and a love of the Canberra environment, which she is keen to bring to her conversations with the public, community groups, academic institutions and government.”
Dr Lewis said she is looking forward to working with the community and the government to continue to build on the territory's success in addressing climate change and protecting the environment.
"The ACT is already a world leader in addressing climate change in particular, but there is still a lot to be done to address the challenges and vulnerabilities around our environment and sustainability, and I’m keen to be involved through the Commissioner position,” Dr Lewis said.
"As we have seen with our recent extreme heat, drought and fires, climate change is a huge challenge now and for our future as it will continue to impact on our environment at local, national and international levels.
"I’m particularly committed to using my role to promote the involvement of children in our environment and in finding solutions to some of our challenges.”
Dr Lewis’ ability to inspire young people has been a highlight of her time with UNSW Canberra, not only through the education of the University’s students, but through her outreach to young children across the city.
Dr Lewis said the COVID-19 health emergency and social distancing measures have seen many more children enjoy the great outdoors.
“Let’s build on this to connect our children with our beautiful environment – and their local community – to engender a love and stewardship of nature, noting many of our reserves are home to endangered species,” Dr Lewis said.
"There is also much we can do to help children understand climate change and to involve them in taking the essential action we need to achieve zero-net emissions and have the best possible chance to preserve our environment and their future."
Dr Lewis will be missed at UNSW Canberra, but her colleagues are thrilled she will continue to be an asset to the nation’s capital.
“I have had a wonderful time as part of the UNSW family and have been supported and encouraged and built up in my teaching and research career. It is a fantastic, family-friendly workplace full of opportunity,” Dr Lewis said.
“It has been a great privilege to supervise PhD students and teach the future leaders of the Australian Defence Force about disaster response, recovery and resilience.”
UNSW Canberra would like to congratulate Dr Lewis on this appointment and wishes her all the best for the future.