UNSW Sydney will operate as a sustainable 'city'

Friday, 07 June, 2019


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UNSW Sydney has launched a three-year strategy to deepen its commitment to environmental sustainability. Launched on this year’s World Environment Day (5 June 2019), UNSW’s Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) 2019–21 details how the university plans to switch to 100% renewable electricity, expand solar energy generation and improve energy and water efficiency to reduce its environmental footprint. The aim is to make onsite buildings free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the plan sets out a roadmap for best practice in the higher education sector.

“Our planet is currently facing a series of complex environmental challenges, from pollution of land and oceans to biodiversity loss and climate change,” he said. “UNSW is a major investor, consumer and landholder, and our Sydney campuses form part of the daily lives of some 62,000 students and more than 6700 staff. The university has the scale of a small city, so it is right that we grow and invest like any sustainable city would, with a responsible and clear plan.”

Under the new plan, UNSW will increase its onsite solar energy generation through the university’s solar energy agreement, design new buildings to operate emissions-free and introduce centralised waste collection in offices to save an estimated one million plastic liners annually. Energy efficiency upgrades will target the least efficient buildings on campus, saving enough electricity to power around 400 homes by 2022. Improvements to water efficiency on campus will save 12,000 m3 of water per year.

UNSW has also committed to integrate best practice environmental, social and governance principles within investment activities by establishing a Responsible Investment Framework. This will allow the university to invest in climate change solutions and align its investment portfolio with the Paris Agreement.

Prof. Jacobs said UNSW has a history of environmental stewardship across research, learning and teaching and campus operations. “About 50% of the solar panels sold worldwide today use UNSW-designed technology, and our alumni are at the forefront of the photovoltaics and energy transition industries globally. Our new plan builds on these achievements while significantly raising our levels of ambition to respond to the scale of environmental challenges we face today,” he said.

The ESP addresses key environmental issues, defining commitments, targets and activities across 10 focus areas that support the UNSW 2025 Strategy and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“UNSW’s research, learning and teaching programs aim to address environmental challenges that are critical to the future of our planet,” UNSW Head of Environmental Sustainability William Syddall said. “Under this plan, we will develop a set of resources that engage the student and staff community in the SDGs through learning and teaching programs, while making sure academic staff are able to decide how to include SDG thinking within their courses.

“Once UNSW has eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from building energy use by 2020, our focus will turn to indirect sources of emissions such as travel, embodied emissions and purchased goods and services,” he said.

“We hope this plan inspires not only our university community but the wider community to take action for a sustainable future.”

The Environmental Sustainability Plan can be found here.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/malp

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