Goal #13

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

UNSW Sydney achieved net zero operational (scope 1 and 2) emissions in 2020 through investment in energy efficiency, onsite and offsite renewable energy and carbon offsets. UNSW is also targeting net zero value chain (scope 3) emissions including supply chain, travel, investments, commuting and other sources, by 2050 and a 50% reduction by 2030. 

UNSW was ranked 2nd globally for our contributions to SDG 13: Climate Action in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. Examples of Climate Action across UNSW include:  

  • Our successful Environmental Sustainability Plan 2019-21, a three-year climate action plan outlining our key initiatives and activities to improve the sustainability of campus operations. The 2022-2024 Environmental Sustainability Plan outlines how we will continue to build on and improve our efforts.
  • UNSW’s role as a founding member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEx), which exists to transform our understanding of events such as heatwaves, droughts and storms. It provides data, tools, advisory services, and education for local, national and international governments, helping them to plan for climate change. 
  • SMaRT@UNSW, which works in partnership with the University of Newcastle to commercialise projects that will help Australia and the world transition to sustainable recycling and clean energy solutions and systems. The initiative was awarded $50 million Trailblazer funding in 2022.  
  • The 'Schools Weather and Air Quality' (SWAQ) program. SWAQ is the first school-based and comprehensive atmospheric monitoring network in Australia. The project promotes STEM and climate change awareness in schools.      
  • A beach monitoring system pioneered by the UNSW Water Research Laboratory is the world’s largest Coastal Imaging Network, which provides Australian local councils with a cost-effective solution to unlock unprecedented information about the coastal zone.   

We are the problem, but also the solution.

Greenhouse gases are still rising and climate change is occurring at rates much higher than anticipated just a few years ago. The rise in emissions makes a warming trajectory of 1.5 - 2 degrees – the stated goal of the UN – increasingly difficult  to realise and emphasises why we must act to reduce our emissions now. Ultimately, human behaviour has caused climate change and its only by changing human behaviour that we’re going to solve the problem. The are lots of simple actions that are easy to implement and effective, especially if we all adopt them, including reducing car use, reducing food waste, eating more plant based food, and getting involved in groups to integrate climate change majors in to national policy.

In this video, Professor Ben Newell from the School of Psychology, UNSW, breaks down some of the key challenges behind SDG #13.

UNSW hosts Circular Economy 2030 forum

UNSW hosted the Circular Economy 2030 forum, a collaboration between Circular Australia, Impact X and UNSW Sydney and is supported by the International Universities Climate Alliance, UNSW Engineering and UNSW’s Institute for Global Development. 

UNSW Vice Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs was a keynote speaker at the event, reflecting UNSW’s position as a global knowledge partner and leader in climate science, technological innovation, sustainable industrial practices, and development.

Partnerships for Climate Action Symposium

International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA), Monash University, and UNSW Sydney, in collaboration with regional partners, presented this special event.

Prominent leaders and experts in the tertiary sector, government, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), local communities, youth and First Nations people shared their experiences in fostering mutually beneficial, authentic and sustainable partnerships that promote climate empowerment throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ) 

The UNSW Climate Change Research Centre developed the first school-based comprehensive atmospheric monitoring network in Australia, known as Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ). The project promotes STEM and climate change awareness in schools. The SWAQ team have been nominated for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

UNSW joins the UN's Race to Zero

In 2021 UNSW became a signatory to the United Nation’s Race to Zero global campaign, which rallies leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery. Joining the campaign reaffirmed our commitment to combating climate change and building a sustainable future.

TEDI-London PLuS Alliance Initiative

The TEDI-London PLuS Alliance is a joint initiative of UNSW, Arizona State University and King's College London. In 2021, the ‘Engineering for People Design Challenge’ was run as part of the TEDI-London course in partnership with Engineers without Borders UK. The challenge brief required students to think carefully about the impact their ideas had whilst developing their solutions - considering not only the design brief, but the potential consequences that their work might have on the social, environmental and ethical factors involved.

SMaRT@UNSW

SMaRT@UNSW, in partnership with the University of Newcastle, was awarded $50 million under the Australian Government’s Trailblazer Universities Program for Recycling and Clean Energy (TRaCE) in 2022. It is working to commercialise projects that will help Australia and the world transition to sustainable recycling and clean energy solutions and systems.

What are the economic implications of a changing climate?

The lecture presented by Dr Timothy Neal explores the potential channels through which climate change will impact our economy, and the unrealistic assumptions that underlie current models used to predict the economic impact of a changing climate.

Awards

2021 Chemeca Medal

Scientia Professor Rose Amal from UNSW Engineering was awarded the 2021 Chemeca Medal by the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Chemical Engineers (ANZFChE), the most prestigious award in the chemical engineering profession in Australia and New Zealand.

The award is in recognition of her world-leading research in the fields of fine particle technology, photocatalysis and functional nanomaterials, which has profound implications for solar and chemical energy conversion applications such as treating water, purifying air, and generating renewable hydrogen economically and sustainably.

2022 NSW Sustainability Awards (Net Zero Action)

UNSW Sydney was announced as the winner of the 'Net Zero Action' category in the 2022 NSW Sustainability Awards, presented by the Banksia Foundation.

The University picked up the award in recognition of its efforts to achieve net zero emissions through energy efficiency and onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) initiatives, switching to 100% renewable electricity through a landmark Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), and measuring and targeting value chain emissions from sources such as purchased goods and services, investments, and travel.

UNSW Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is a key element of our 2025 Strategy. Through this, we have made it our mission to become the first university in Australia to commit to having 100% of its electricity supplied by photovoltaic solar power. Our students and staff are actively engaged in environmental and social issues. We recognise that we are uniquely positioned to contribute to solving global environmental challenges through teaching, research, thought leadership and demonstrating leading practices on our campuses.

Zero Emissions 

Our target of net zero emissions from building energy use has been achieved every year since 2020. 

Exceeding Targets

Our total emissions were down by 51% in 2021. We’ve achieved our 2025 goal of a 30% reduction early and exceeded our target.

100% Solar Energy

All UNSW electricity is from renewable sources under a world first 15-year solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

Scope

We've committed to a 1.5°C-aligned emission reduction target - based on the most comprehensive emissions inventory of any Australian university.

Centres

UNSW Climate Change Research Centre

UNSW CCRC is a multi-disciplinary research centre comprising one of the largest university research facilities of its kind in Australia, administered within the School of BEES in the Faculty of Science.

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International Universities Climate Alliance

UNSW-led International Universities Climate Alliance has a membership of about 58 universities globally and its mandate is to amplify university research via global communication, to influence policy makers and counter misinformation in the public.

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ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEx)

UNSW is a founding member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEx), located on our main campus and directed by UNSW Professor Andy Pitman.

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UNSW Sustainable Development Goals 2022 Report

This report outlines UNSW's performance against the SDGs in 2022.

More SDGs

Goal #14

Life below water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal #15

Life on land
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal #16

Peace, justice and strong institutions
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.