Meet your Council

Professor Penny Sackett

Professor Penny Sackett, (Chair)

Professor Penny Sackett is appointed to the Council for her expertise in climate change science and the community's interest in climate change.

Professor Sackett is a physicist, astronomer, former Chief Scientist for Australia, an Adjunct Professor with the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute and a private strategic advisor. Professor Sackett has served on Australian, Dutch, European, and United States science and advisory panels. As Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory when it was destroyed in the 2003 bush fires, Professor Sackett led the effort to rebuild and re-establish the international centre for research, training, and high-tech instrumentation.

As Chief Scientist for Australia (2008–2011), Professor Sackett provided independent advice to the Australian Government on matters of science and innovation, and was a vocal champion of evidenced-based decision making. She spearheaded the effort to introduce long-term, cross-portfolio and cross-disciplinary foresight into the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, and opened new channels of communication to the Australian public on matters of science, particularly those relating to sustainability such as climate change and food security.

Paul Bannister

Dr Paul Bannister

Dr Paul Bannister is appointed to the Council for his expertise in energy efficiency and the built environment.

Dr Bannister has expertise in the field of commercial and institutional building energy efficiency. He had a central role in the development of major energy efficiency innovations such as the NABERS Energy and water ratings and the redevelopment of Section J (Energy Efficiency) of the Australian Building Code (2019 Edition). One of Dr Bannister's particular specialities is the optimisation of building controls, which he has been able to use to create significant improvements in building performance on a wide range of sites.

Dr Bannister is a well-known speaker on energy efficiency issues both nationally and internationally, having presented at numerous conferences within Australia and overseas. He has published well over 80 papers on energy efficiency related issues. Dr Bannister has strong networks in the building and property industry, from government through to builders and from industry associations through to individual property managers.

Dr Cris BrackDr Cris Brack

Dr Cris Brack is appointed to the Council for his expertise in environmental management.

Dr Brack is Associate Professor of Natural Resource Measurement and Management in The Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. He has over twenty years of experience in researching, teaching and developing best practices in urban forestry, having published 12 peer reviewed articles specifically on urban forests and green spaces, in addition to another 70 papers on carbon sequestration, natural resource assessment and management.

Dr Brack won an Australian Museum Eureka Award for Environmental Science for his work on the National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS), which was developed to support national policy development on climate change mitigation. Dr Brack has extensive skills and experience working with ANU and the ACT Government on the planning and management of Canberra's urban forest, including street trees and the National Arboretum. Dr Brack's recent research has focused on sustaining a vibrant and healthy urban forest in the presence of increasingly harsh climate scenarios.

Sophia Hamblin Wang

Ms Sophia Hamblin Wang

Ms Sophia Hamblin Wang is appointed to the Council for her expertise in business.

Ms Hamblin Wang is a local entrepreneur with a goal to enhance the engagement of the corporate world with global and local environmental and social issues, particularly focusing on the social impacts of climate change. She has experience in business, low carbon technologies and sustainability, and an academic background in international business and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Ms Hamblin Wang is currently the Chief Operations Officer of Mineral Carbonation International, a company that develops sustainable materials that incorporate CO2 emissions into building products, and was recently awarded first place for Resource Innovator of the Year at the New Materials Summit in Berlin. Ms Hamblin Wang is also a co-founder of 'Kingfisher Co-Housing Canberra', which aims to build resident-led micro-co-housing communities in Canberra. She has previously been a delegate at many national and international conferences on climate change, entrepreneurship and business including the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2020 and the UN Youth Climate Change Summit in New York, 2019.

Professor Mark Howden

Professor Mark Howden

Professor Mark Howden is appointed to the Council for his expertise in climate change science.

Professor Howden is Director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute. He is also an Honorary Professor at Melbourne University, a Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II and a member of the Australian National Climate Science Advisory Committee. He was on the US Federal Advisory Committee for the 3rd National Climate Assessment and contributes to several major national and international science and policy advisory bodies.

Professor Howden has worked on climate variability, climate change, innovation and adoption issues for over 30 years in partnership with many industry, community and policy groups via both research and science-policy roles. Issues he has addressed include agriculture and food security, the natural resource base, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy, water and urban systems. Professor Howden has over 420 publications of different types. He helped develop both the national and international greenhouse gas inventories that are a fundamental part of the Paris Agreement and has assessed sustainable ways to reduce emissions. He has been a major contributor to the IPCC since 1991, with roles in the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and now Sixth Assessment Reports, sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC participants and Al Gore.

Ms Karen JessonMs Karen Jesson

Ms Karen Jesson is appointed to the Council as a community development specialist.

Ms Karen Jesson is the Community Development Manager with Communities@Work. She has over 13  years' experience in Community Development (CD) and works with a variety of stakeholders and groups in the ACT. She has qualifications in Community Development and Management, as well as Permaculture Design and Home Sustainability Assessment.

Karen has assisted in the development and delivery of some key projects within the ACT. She is passionate about making connections and sharing information. On numerous occasions she has been instrumental in delivering conferences and workshops which have seen both national and internationally recognised speakers present best practice thinking in the field of CD.

She established the Sustainability Network, which saw two key outcomes, namely the development of Canberra loves 40% and Canberra City Farm achieved. She is one of the founding members of Canberra Transition Town.

Karen was motivated to join the Climate Change Council by her passion for building connected, resilient and more sustainable communities and bringing their voice to the conversation around Climate Change.

Headshot of Ben PontonMr Ben Ponton

Mr Ben Ponton is appointed to the Council as Director-General of the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Mr Ponton was appointed to the role of Director-General in April 2017. Ben is a registered town planner with over 25 years' experience in both the private and government sectors and is passionate about achieving high quality outcomes through meaningful and effective engagement.

Ben has experience within the private sector where he worked as a town planning consultant before beginning his government career with various New South Wales local government authorities. For the last 14 years, Ben has worked for the ACT Government in areas such as strategic planning, environmental policy, land and planning regulation, transport, city services and urban renewal. Ben focuses on citizen-oriented Government and believes in engaging with citizens early to build a sustainable and prosperous community for all.