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Three UNSW students will head to Paris this month to take part in events surrounding the UN Climate Change Conference, after winning first prize in the University’s Climate Change Grand Challenge competition.

Science student Matt Hale, Commerce student Lindy Hua and Executive MBA student Andrew Beehag were jointly awarded the trip for their innovative solutions to addressing climate change.

President and Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs congratulated the students on their win and said he hopes the opportunity to visit Paris during the climate change talks would foster their passion to lead change. “This prize provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to develop a global perspective and explore practical solutions to addressing the challenge of climate change.”

The competition was the culmination of a campaign on the UNSW Ideas platform, where students from across the University posted ideas and cast votes on proposals to encourage sustainability.

Finalists pitched their solutions to a live audience and panel of judges at the UNSW Climate Change and Innovation Festival, hosted by the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre in October.

“I really applaud UNSW for challenging its students to explore ways to make a real difference both within the university and beyond,” says Andrew.

“The opportunity to go to Paris is incredible. I am hoping to see where people and businesses are successfully making changes, and how we can bring this understanding back to Australia.”

Matt says he is looking forward to attending the public events and exhibitions linked to the UN summit and sharing his experiences with the UNSW community. 

"To be able to be in Paris at this incredibly important time in human history, when decisions that might go a long way towards deciding our fate are being made, is an extraordinary opportunity." 

Lindy is also keen to take part in the many events happening alongside the conference.

“I’m excited to see all these people who are passionate about sustainability in one place. I’m most interested in the grassroots events such as the climate march,” she says.

Competition entries were judged on the innovative nature, practicality and scalability of ideas as well as the quality of the pitch.

“My idea is to create sustainable alternatives to throwing things away, for example, providing opportunities for students to compost food waste on campus,” Lindy says.

Andrew says his idea was based on the aim of reducing the amount of energy used to keep buildings cool, and he plans to run a pilot program at UNSW on his return from Paris.

“A surprisingly large amount of CO2 can be saved by changing building temperatures by one degree. My idea was to make a smartphone app that allowed people to say how comfortable they were, and by aggregating votes, occupants work together to reduce the amount of CO2 generated,” he says.

Climate change is the first of the global ‘Grand Challenges’ identified in UNSW’s 2025 Strategy, which aims to position the University as an international leader in research and as a premier forum for debate and thought leadership.