UOW is committed to the principles of environmental sustainability and has developed an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to deliver improvements in the use of energy, water, waste management and campus biodiversity.
Goal 13: Climate Action
Energy consumption represents approximately 98% of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions. Research being undertaken at UOW is exploring the causes and impacts of climate change and practical solutions such as sustainable fisheries management, bushfire management and innovations in battery technologies, sustainable buildings and new materials. The University is currently spending approximately $8M installing solar photovoltaic panels and LED lighting to slash energy consumption at its Wollongong and Innovation Campuses. In addition, the University is investing heavily to provide public transport services, including $350,000 per annum to support Wollongong’s free shuttle bus in addition to its own bus routes.
Global Climate Change Week
Global Climate Change Week (GCCW) was established when academics and students at UOW got together to talk about climate change action and solutions. Now, each year, academics, professional staff and local communities around the world come together to save the planet in a global movement The week involves a range of activities including open lectures, discussion panels, environmental lifestyle workshops and other events at UOW’s Wollongong campuses and venues around the city of Wollongong. The events are aimed at capturing the attention of students, policy-makers, and the wider community, demonstrating the need to take action against climate change. In 2019, 20 events took place in Wollongong for GCCW.
Blue Carbon Futures
UOW researchers have been investigating how mangroves have responded to sea-level rise in the past, providing us with crucial information about how our shorelines will change in the future with climate change. The team received a Eureka Prize for Environmental Research in 2019.
We need to mitigate climate change and one of those key mechanisms is by pulling carbon from the atmosphere and locking it into ecosystems. Blue Carbon is one of the most efficient ways of doing this.
My name is Dr. Kerrylee Rodgers. I'm an ARC Future Fellow. The project I'm leading is a Blue Carbon Futures project.
We're particularly interested in the capacity of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and salt marsh, to sequest the carbon from the atmosphere. These ecosystems do this by pulling carbon down into the living biomass, and then extending it down into the roots. Once it's in the roots as tides are coming in, it's stopping the carbon from decomposing, and in addition, because the tides are saline it's stopping methanogenesis.
So it's stopping the release of methane into the atmosphere as well. So before the Global Challenges Program, each of the researchers in our project actually worked quite independently, but on similar topics. Global challenges program actually provided us the opportunity to bring our interests together, but from an interdisciplinary perspective.
We're able to bring them all together and mesh them together in a way that added new information. As a consequence, I've learned a lot about accounting and I've learnt a lot about more on policy and I hope they too have learned a lot about blue carbon science that they can add to their discipline as well.
I'm Dr. Mary Kaidonis. I'm an Associate Professor of Accounting in the Faculty of Business. Often what is evidence in these interdisciplinary projects is that no one system, no one discipline has all the answers. It doesn't have all the questions. In this project we need to understand how we can engage corporations and governments to change behaviour.
One of the ways in which we can do that is to represent the monetisation and financial aspect of this carbon sequestered.
Our project has had an impact already. We've been able to develop new connections with people in Vietnam and Brazil and we're trying to build on those connections so that we can have a real impact in those countries. We've also had some connections domestically. We've been able to interact with a number of government agencies within Australia's world to contribute to the information that's been collected about blue carbon.
Blue carbon matters on a global scale, because climate change is occurring on a global scale, and blue carbon is distributed globally and therefore is a great mechanism for mitigating climate change.
The ECO Antarctica project has established a new trans-Tasman network of Antarctic researchers with a wide range of expertise. These include marine and terrestrial ecologists, data scientists, environmental toxicologists, climate scientists and modellers, and experts in Antarctic and environmental law and policy. In 2019, the team showcased the wonder and science of Antarctica in a public exhibition called Antarctic Footprints. This allowed the public to explore some of the challenges that Antarctica’s coastal and near-shore marine systems face. This team has also drafted recommended protocols for uniformly monitoring and comparing terrestrial and marine zones for both climate and health of biodiversity around the coast of Antarctica. Collecting local climate and biodiversity data in a uniform way will contribute to science projects and national programs, resulting in informed conservation and environmental management throughout the Antarctic.
Working with Jakarta’s government disaster management agency and Twitter, UOW researchers developed an open source platform, Petajakarta.org, to crowd-source and automate flood reporting. This technology reduced the time and cost of situational awareness, empowered citizens to report flood information through social media, and improved human adaptability to environmental disasters. The tool saved lives by enabling community and first responders to avoid and navigate safely through flood zones. Economic benefits were realised through cost savings from manual reporting and reductions in flood-related injury, property damage and disease. This model for emergency response is now seen as best practice by international agencies and has been further adopted by seven cities in four countries.
When disaster strikes: Under-insurance in an age of volatility
There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally of the extensive social and economic costs of disasters, which are increasing due to the impact of climate change. In the ten years leading up to 2016, the total cost of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia averaged $18.2 billion per annum. When disasters strike, home and contents insurance provides a safety net but many households are under-insured or not insured at all. The average uninsured loss for each ‘natural’ disaster in Australia between 2004 and 2011 is estimated at almost $1 billion. Little is known about the factors that contribute to these rates of inadequate insurance cover. Researchers at UOW are attempting to bridge this knowledge gap by examining perceptions of risk and insurance amongst residents both with and without direct personal experience of bushfires. The research strives to assist the development of insurance policies and implementation strategies that meet the needs of residents.
Disaster and crisis in our region
This year, our region has seen terrible drought and bushfires, and now the world is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. UOW Global Challenges brought together teams of researchers from UOW and the broader community to investigate disaster and crisis resilience in our region.View the projects