Western Sydney is getting bigger and hotter
Our work aligns to 13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; and 13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
Many of our Western students (77%) live in Western Sydney. Climate change impacts us all and urban heat is emerging as a major liveability issue for Western Sydney’s future. As Western Sydney gets hotter, significant impacts on our health, infrastructure, economy and the environment will be experienced. Our region is particularly susceptible to the impacts of urban heat due to the region’s existing climate, geographic position, large and growing residential population, rapid urban development and greater levels of social disadvantage. During the Sydney summer of 2018-19, the Sydney CBD and surrounds experienced only six days over 35 degrees Celsius, classified as a “hot day”. In contrast, Penrith experienced 37 hot days; Parramatta experienced 19 hot days; and Bankstown experienced 20 "hot days" for the same period (Greater Sydney Commission, 2019). By the end of 2020 Australia, and our region, had been through its worst bushfire in history followed by localised flooding.
Western’s Sustainability and Resilience Decadal Strategy 2030 signals our serious commitments to climate action, adaptation and mitigation and our strategic 5 year plan ‘Sustaining Success 2021-2026’ has sustainability as a core principle. Our achievements in climate action across our areas of campus operations, education and research have contributed to our global rankings success in this area. In 2021 we were ranked 17th worldwide in the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking for SDG 13 Climate Action – up from top 200 the year before. We have institutional operational targets of 100% renewables in energy supplies by 2026, and carbon neutrality by 2030. Key operational initiatives are underway making rapid progress towards these targets, including a Sustainable Energy Strategy, an Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, and a developing Carbon Neutrality Implementation Plan consistent with the Australian Government’s Climate Active program. This commitment has been fast tracked into action. Western has recently achieved 100% renewables in its electricity supply contracts through the inclusion of 100% government accredited GreenPower. This is four years ahead of our original 2026 target and achieves approximately a 35% reduction in our organisational carbon footprint.
Our educational offerings provide students with the opportunity to study climate specialisations such as global climate change adaptation and mitigation, urban planning for cool green cities and dedicated units such as climate change and culture and environmental planning and climate. Our new solar carpark and outdoor heat living lab demonstration hub at Kingswood campus is used as a research and teaching resource that provides other benefits of cooling, amenity for staff and students. Research within our Environment and Sustainability theme is wide-ranging, applied and interdisciplinary, and concentrates on sustaining and managing diverse urban, agricultural and natural systems. Sustainability is a key focus of research across the University, including the School of Education, the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, the School of Science, School of Health, and the Institute for Culture and Society. The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment has a dedicated research theme that undertakes essential research into soil biology, ecosystem integration and function, sustainable agriculture, food security and plant and animal adaptations to a changing climate. Recent social research by the Institute of Culture and Society of more than 6,000 Greater Metropolitan Sydney residents has found most residents are looking to government to lead on climate change issues. With the recent IPCC report on the severity of planetary climate change Western remains committed to this crucial agenda of action, research and teaching.
Our Local Actions
Led primarily by our research agenda, Western Sydney University is working towards climate action in a number of different areas aross the institution: