Meet Parin Rafiei-Thompson: Head of Climate Innovation and Sustainability

1 September 2022
Climate Connect Aotearoa
Our Team

As part of an ongoing series we meet the team behind Climate Connect  Aotearoa. This week it’s Parin Rafiei-Thompson, Head of Climate Innovation and Sustainability, Tātaki  Auckland Unlimited.


Thanks for joining us, Parin. What’s your involvement Climate Connect Aotearoa?

In my position at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited I was involved in setting up Climate Connect Aotearoa and now I provide governance and oversight. 


You saw early on the need for Climate Connect Aotearoa. What is that need?

I’m privileged to see across many sectors and see up close the challenge of climate change. And there was a gap - someone needed to bring climate innovators together. That’s what Climate Connect Aotearoa does.  

We’re the connectors. Our role is to bring innovators together and also provide a knowledge hub to make climate change research accessible to everyone so we can solve the big challenges we’re facing. 

How did you arrive at a career in climate action?

In a roundabout kind of way! I come from an engineering background. I did my PhD in aluminium smelting and worked in the mining industry in Australia for five years - so I couldn't have worked in a higher emitting industry. I remember sitting in a meeting one day and the company was talking about how global warming was a good thing for them. There was this huge disconnect between the company’s economic sustainability and the sustainability of the planet. That didn't sit well with me and so I made the decision to leave. I wanted to feel good about my job again. 

I went back to university to study a diploma in sustainability and worked in climate change roles in industry and NGOs before joining Auckland Council to set up the sustainability plan before helping launch Climate Connect Aotearoa. 

What’s driving you?  

I look at my kids and I want them to have a good future. I watched a David Attenborough documentary with my daughter and we were both in tears. "This is all your fault," she said. 
Kids will point the finger at us and ask: “What did you do?” 

I’ve had to change my own habits but I also firmly believe there has to be system wide change. It's really hard for individuals who are making an effort to see the system staying the same. 

And when you’re not working?  

I've got two kids so that doesn’t leave much time for other interests. I go to the gym most mornings to keep fit, physically and mentally. I also go to art classes with my 10-year-old who insists on coming along. It turns out she’s a much better artist than me! 

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