The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists

The Purves Environmental Fund is a major sponsor of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and the Wentworth Science Program. The Wentworth Group is the leading independent group of Australian environmental scientists and economists. It was incorporated in December 2007. The Group is overseen by Peter Cosier, who acts as the Executive Director. The Wentworth Group relies on the personal commitment and time of the individual members of the group and a small secretariat to drive the Group's activities. The Group aims to shift the management of Australia's land and water resources to a sustainable level.

As at 17 September 2012, The Members of the Group are:

  • Mr Peter Cosier;
  • Professor Tim Flannery;
  • Dr Ronnie Harding;
  • Professor Hugh Possingham FAA;
  • Mr Robert Purves AM;
  • Dr Denis Saunders AM;
  • Professor Bruce Thom FIAG FTSE;
  • Dr John Williams;
  • Professor David Karoly;
  • Dr Richard Davis; and,
  • Professor Lesley Hughes.


The late Professor Peter Cullen AO FTSE was a member of the Wentworth Group until his death in 2008.

National Water Reform

The Group makes substantial contributions in the area of water reform. Because of their long association with water reform, the Wentworth Group is seen as a truly independent voice for the Murray Darling Basin.

Since April 2008, the issue of water reform has once again risen to the front of the broader political debate - with the ongoing decline in water availability in the southern Murray system, the risk of a catastrophic acidification of the Lower Lakes, and ongoing failure to accelerate reforms through COAG. The crisis in the Coorong and Lower Lakes has become the potent physical symbol of the failure of not only water reform, but the sustainable management of the Murray Darling Basin more generally. With climate change, a climate shift, water extraction and the raft of other issues confronting this ecosystem, the long term solution to protecting this internationally significant wetland is to recognise it as the Murray River estuary and to manage it accordingly.

National Environmental Accounts

Public debates on population, water reform, climate change, and food security are taking place in a vacuum because we have no accounting system that can measure the impact these pressures are having on the Australian environment.

As a consequence, those charged with managing the environment, making investments, or developing land use policy do not have the information available to quantify environmental trade-offs, impacts, or improvements.

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

The Wentworth Group's Accounting for Nature model, which was developed with other scientists and economists, creates a common set of accounts - a common environmental currency. The Group works with Australian regional natural resource management bodies to design and implement a trial of regional environmental accounts, using the accounting concepts described in Accounting for Nature.

The Wentworth Group is also contributing to international efforts to develop an internationally accredited system of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounts.

Carbong in the Landscape

A price on carbon could bring substantial opportunities to address some of the great environmental challenges confronting Australia: repairing degraded landscapes, restoring river corridors, improving the condition of our agricultural soils, conserving Australia's biodiversity and adapting to climate change.

The Wentworth Group recommended that to take advantage of these potential opportunities, Australia's governments need to ensure that future policies to reduce carbon emissions also incentivise storage of carbon in the landscape. The Group has argued for regional natural resource management planning and land use planning that guide landscape carbon into areas of high environmental benefit and away from areas of high risk, for complementary economic incentives to leverage multiple public benefit outcomes, and for linking offset credits created under the Carbon Farming Initiative to the carbon pricing mechanism.

All of these recommendations have been adopted in the Australian Government's Carbon Farming Initiative, and are included in the Clean Energy Future.

Managing Australia

The Wentworth Group has developed a framework for their next blueprint, Managing Australia, that sets out the fundamental institutional, economic and cultural reforms required to secure the long term health of Australian landscapes. To this end, it addresses three major challenges:

  • Creating resilience in the landscape to allow it to adapt to climate change;
  • Managing the growing impact of population growth and demand on natural resources, particularly along our coasts; and,
  • Correcting the legacy of history - the over-clearing of native vegetation, the over-extraction of water, the introduction of pests and weeds and inappropriate agricultural practices.

Science Program

The Wentworth Group launched its scholarship program in February 2007. The program aims to invest in and build the capacity of the next generation of natural resource scientists and economists to shape policy for Australia's land, water and marine resources. Participants in the program, the Wentworth Scholars, attend a three day master class and receive support and mentoring from individual members of Wentworth Group in the relevance of their research to public policy over the course of a year. In turn, the members learn about the cutting edge research being undertaken by the Scholars.

Informal mentoring of the scholars from previous years continues with members of Wentworth Group and staff. Prof Bruce Thom as created a framework for contact with members of the Group and ongoing mentoring. It is this contact that makes the Scholarship so sought after and special.

Terrestrial Carbon Group

The Terrestrial Carbon Groups was established by the Purves Environmental Fund through the Wentworth Group in 2007. It released a model for How to Include Terrestrial Carbon in Developing Nations in the Overall Climate Change Solution in 2008. This work provided a robust and practical framework for the conservation and restoration of carbon in the world's tropical rainforests to contribute to the global climate change solution. The Group is now based at Columbia University in USA. Members of the Wentworth Group, Peter Cosier, Tim Flannery and Hugh Possingham, continue to be members of the Terrestrial Carbon Group.