Three of Australia's top universities have formed an alliance to spearhead national leadership in climate change research, education and policy

Comprising UNSW, The Australian National University and Monash University, the Universities Climate Consortium (UCC) builds on three years of collaborative work and consolidates a significant grouping of strategic skills, resources and institutional investment on climate-related issues.

The Consortium is the Australian equivalent to the US University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a non-profit consortium of national and international university members. Australia's UCC integrates three important strands to climate change research building upon the members' main research strengths.

UNSW, led by Professors Andy Pitman and Matthew England will take the lead on research into the terrestrial and marine processes related to climate change. Monash University, led by Professor Amanda Lynch, will take the lead on the atmospheric science of climate change, including storms, fire and flood. ANU will lead research on the economic and policy dimensions of climate change adaptation.

"The Consortium establishes and unifies world-class, strategic, team-based climate science capability for Australia," says UNSW Vice Chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer.

"Each member university has recognised world-class research leaders in this area, and the Consortium represents about 80 percent of the nationally significant university-based teaching and research on climate-related issues.

"On that basis I think it's fair to say that ANU, Monash and UNSW are Australia's leading institutions in the natural and social sciences and economics of climate change."

In collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, colleagues from other universities, and the Bureau of Rural Sciences, the UCC will ensure that Australia continues to be a player of global significance in climate change research and education.

The Consortium is open to additional membership, based on the strength of the institution's climate-related research and its desire to build collaboration to the level that currently exists among the three founding universities.

"The Consortium has the capability to attack the most critical climate questions facing Australia," says Professor Will Steffen, Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU.

"Together, we will be able to address important natural science questions such as the likely future behaviour of El Niño, the relationships between climate change, drought and water availability, and the science underpinning abrupt climate change and extreme events."

Importantly, the Consortium will also tackle the critical policy and economic questions arising from climate change, in terms of both adaptation and mitigation.

"Based on its research program, the UCC is building an outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate education program on climate change," says Professor Amanda Lynch, Director of Monash Climate.

"The education activities will be linked to the needs of key stakeholders in government, such as the Australian Greenhouse Office, to emerging requirements of the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS), and to the National Climate Change Adaptation Centre (NCCAC). This is important because it will help grow the next generation of researchers for the climate science and economics sector."

The Consortium will have the research strength, political connectivity and strategic alignment with stakeholders to become world-leading, according to the co-director of UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre, Professor Andy Pitman.

Media contact: Dan Gaffney, UNSW Media Office, mob 0411 156 015.