RMIT student, entrepreneur and passionate environmental evangelist, Matthew Race, has travelled to Paris to attend the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Race is unofficially representing RMIT at the international gathering, after an email exchange with Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE.
France is hosting the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, dubbed COP21, from 30 November to 11 December.
Taking place amid heightened security as Paris continues to recover from the devastating terrorist attacks earlier this month, the conference has been described as crucial, given that any new international agreement on climate change needs to hold global warming below two degrees.
Race said he almost fell off his chair when Martin Bean offered him an opportunity to travel to Paris for the conference during an email exchange discussing divestment from fossil fuels and RMIT’s commitment to the environment through initiatives such as the Sustainable Urban Precincts Program.
“I’m proud of the current initiatives that we’ve been doing and proud of attending a university that takes sustainability seriously,” he said.
“In terms of Paris, I never ever expected to be going. I just put my case forward to be honest and I pretty much left it all on the table.”
Martin Bean said the decision to send Race to Paris would place RMIT at the very centre of the climate change debate and was consistent with the University’s vision to offer life-changing educational experiences for students.
“We are all striving to create a better world and supporting initiatives that enable outcomes such as more sustainable energy and water use, and building safer and more resilient cities, is a big part of that,” he said.
“The eyes of the world will be on the talks and one of our own students will be at the heart of this discussion, reflecting RMIT’s commitment to sustainability.
“I can’t wait to hear what insights he brings home with him.”
A member of RMIT’s Student Ambassador Program, Race believes his passion and commitment to create a better world was crucial in securing his role as the University’s eyes and ears on the ground in the French capital.
He said his aim at the summit would be to look, listen, learn and meet as many people as possible.
“I will be able to connect with like-minded people from around the world and refine my vision to fight climate change. And, of course, I’ll enjoy the global experience,” Race said.
“I feel like the University has trusted me and for that I am incredibly thankful.”
Not short of ideas, Race is just as passionate about turning them into action.
The Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) student has started his own residential renewable energy installation company, NegaWATT Australia.
His ultimate vision for the project, which won him the 2014 and 2015 Jacques Nasser Business Start-up Scholarship, is to one day build it into a peer-to-peer, decentralised energy company that involves the sharing of electricity between users.
“It’s about giving people the resources and empowering them to make the right decisions, while keeping those decisions and values embedded in sustainability,” he said.
As excited as he is about his impending trip to Paris, when it comes to making the world a better place, Race believes there’s nowhere better to start than his own backyard.
He’s been the driving force behind a range of sustainability improvements to his Elizabeth Street apartment block, ranging from retrofitting LED lighting to installing solar panels, introducing recycling and planning for a future community garden.
“It’s about changing my whole building and the lifestyle here so it’s more sustainable,” Race said.
“I’ve been thinking about getting a bee hive for the building as well.”
An active member of the student campaign against investment in fossil fuel, Race said he hoped RMIT would review its investment policy and carbon reporting standards in preparation for divestment in the future, something the University says it is investigating.
Closer to home, he would ultimately like to see the building he lives in become carbon-neutral.
“I’m trying to institute sustainable change and empower individuals.”
Find out about <span>RMIT’s initiatives in s</span>ustainability.
Story: Greg Thom