ANU Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions Highlights 2021

Advancing solutions to climate change, the energy transition and disasters

2021 was a year of many milestones. Extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change have caught governments off-guard and caused devastation and loss of life around the world. July was the world’s hottest month on record, the Arctic recorded its highest ever temperature at 38 degrees Celsius, Australia experienced its wettest November, while New Zealand recorded its warmest.

Other milestones have carried a more positive tone, signalling emerging opportunities. Global clean energy generation reached another record high. For the second time, the entire United Kingdom ran for over 18 days on zero-carbon energy. In Europe, electric and hybrid vehicles outsold diesel vehicles, and on multiple times this year South Australian electricity demand was completely met by renewable sources.

It is against this backdrop that the Australian National University’s Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions (ICEDS) was launched in January. Consolidating the former Climate Change, Energy Change and Disaster Risk Science Institutes, ICEDS was established to support and harness the depth of expertise of ANU researchers working in these fields. Facilitating collaboration across disciplines, we provide a framework under which solutions to the inter-linked challenges of climate change, the energy transition and disasters can be holistically approached, and resulting opportunities maximised.

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Building a community of climate, energy & disaster solutions researchers


Research Clusters

ANU research on climate, energy and disaster solutions covers earth sciences, land, water, food, energy and biodiversity nexus, net zero technologies and associated policies, health and security, policy, economics, law and governance and culture and society.

In 2021, ICEDS engaged members to support collaboration through research clusters, building communities of practice across these research areas.

ICEDS Members’ Meeting

On Tuesday 22 June, the Institute held its first face-face members’ meeting. We were delighted to be able to facilitate this face-to-face gathering of the ICEDS network, and platform for further network building between climate, energy and disaster-risk researchers across the University. Thank you to all of our members who were able to participate, and also to ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt, for sharing his thoughts on the role of ANU at this critical juncture.

ICEDS Member Profile: Dr Sarah Milne

From mechanical engineering to political ecology. It might seem like a leap for some, but for Dr Sarah Milne from the Crawford School of Public Policy, it was a natural progression.

Before joining the Australian National University (ANU) as a Lecturer in 2016, Sarah spent over a decade working on forest conservation and community-based natural resource management. Most of her fieldwork was conducted with international environmental NGOs in Cambodia, where human needs and natural resources are deeply intertwined.

As a part of this work, Sarah was involved in implementing and researching forest carbon projects. In 2021, she applied this experience in her work on the ANU Below Zero initiative, looking at the best ways to offset the University’s residual emissions.

Sarah hopes her work on the Below Zero Initiative will lead to articulating best practice in carbon removal, for both practical and scholarly purposes.

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Policy Submissions Workshop – How To Maximise Impact

Held in November, this workshop was designed specifically to help ANU researchers develop policy submissions covering climate change, energy transition and disasters. With speakers from the Federal Government and ANU, the workshop provided an opportunity for researchers to learn from experts how to develop and improve their skills.

Research highlights

The below articles represent just a small sample of the research undertaken by ICEDS members in 2021, demonstrating the breadth of ANU research in climate change, energy and disaster-risk.

Education highlights


Studying climate, energy and disaster-related issues at ANU

The University offers a diverse range of programs and courses specialising in climate, energy and disaster-risk related fields that continue to produce graduates who are ready to tackle some of the most important and complex challenges facing our world.

Executive education

Image: Shutterstock

Climate and Energy Essentials

In 2021, ICEDS ran multiple short courses, providing professionals with insights into and context around the latest developments climate change and energy.

We look forward to continuing the growth of these courses 2022, including the addition of disaster solutions related short course offerings.

What people said

I have been recommending the course to everyone with an interest in climate change where it may interact with their profession.

This course was incredibly well organised, with well prepared and engaging speakers with activities and discussions to allow for ample interaction.

This is my first external development course in the professional sphere, it has set a very high standard and has made me want to engage more with the climate change mitigation and adaptation space.


Image: Melanie Pill

Educating professionals across Australia, Asia and the Pacific

In 2021, ICEDS also ran a series of short courses targeting professionals employed in government, NGOs and the private sector both in Australia, and Asia-Pacific countries. Funded by DFAT, the courses focussed on Climate Adaptation and Grid Integration, fostering improved understanding of the nature of climate change and the energy transition.

What people said

Smoothly managed, conducted in a respectful manner and full of wisdom. I applaud both the lecturers during this program and thank DFAT for their generosity in hosting us, Pacific participants. THANK YOU!

As an implementer in power and energy industry, most of my experience in large scale projects were limited to thermal power plant development. The course has given me insights of renewable power integration and was an eye opener.

ANU Below Zero

The ANU Below Zero Initiative aims to transition ANU to below zero emissions by 2030 for energy, waste, work travel and direct on-campus greenhouse gas emissions. Our approach integrates practical emission-reductions with research and teaching activities at ANU, using our expertise to drive innovation in this vital sector.

Photo: ANU

Working towards a below zero emissions target

Transformational change is required to limit climate change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, including rapid reductions in greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions and the implementation of technologies that remove and sequester GHGs from the atmosphere.

All other indirect emissions arising from procurement of goods and services and commuter travel: ANU will work to reduce these emissions as rapidly as possible, based on international best practices for scope 3 emissions reduction for the university sector.

2021 has seen the ANU Below Zero Initiative focus on capacity building and strategic planning.

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Photo: Simon Bourke

Getting involved - ANU student intern helps develops guidelines to reduce emissions from events

Simon Bourke is a third year Bachelor of Commerce student (majoring in Marketing and Corporate Sustainability). In Semester 2 2021, Simon completed a for-credit internship with ANU Below Zero.

The focus of the guidelines is to provide practical advice that helps avoid high emissions activities, thereby reducing the amount of emissions produced by an event.

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ICEDS ran an extensive events program in 2021, engaging audiences with a wide variety of events across in-person, online and hybrid formats. Here are a few examples of these events.

What people said about our events

  • “Thank you for making these seminars available to the general public!! We were so impressed with the way in which this session was presented so as to be understandable and meaningful to non-scientists. “

  • “Very high quality presentation with information distilled to an easy to understand level, and supported by excellent graphics. Delivery was also well paced .”

  • “Timely, revealing, frank accounts from expectant stakeholders, complemented by informative essential analysis of Australian strategies.”

  • “Grateful for the professionalism and erudite speakers supported by seamless technology management and administration.”

  • “Excellent event all-round, I learnt a lot in a very short space of time.”

  • “Very enjoyable, well run and most importantly very informative.”

Public policy engagement and outreach

ICEDS prioritises strong networks and relationships. Over the past 12 months, ICEDS Executive, staff and members have been engaged in various elements of public policy development, engagement and outreach. This includes numerous briefing sessions with governments at all levels, the public service, business, civil society organisations, diplomats and international organisations, across advisory roles, workshops and presentations, to name a few.

This engagement ensures ANU and our research is positioned in a way that enables us to respond to the priorities and needs of governments, industry and communities, both Australia and abroad.

Below are just a few examples of this activity in 2021.

Making the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accessible to Pacific decision-makers

Island nations and territories across the Pacific are increasingly vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. However, the most recent and comprehensive global synthesis of climate change information, the IPCC’s Report on the Physical Science, is extremely technical and contains information that is of less direct relevance to the Pacific.

ICEDS has been working on a project to help make the IPCC’s findings more readily accessible to Pacific audience and close a knowledge gap in the Pacific.

“Enhancing awareness and understanding of IPCC reports – and climate change more broadly – amongst key stakeholders in the Pacific is critical to ensuring effective action is taken in the region to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts,” said ICEDS Director, Professor Mark Howden.

In collaboration with Pacific partner organisations, a variety of communications products were developed, targeted primarily at Pacific decision makers. These included factsheets, events, articles, podcasts, video and social media.

Engaging with Australia’s emergency service agencies

ANU researchers were well represented at the country’s foremost emergency management and disaster policy forum, the 2021 Australasian Fire and Emergency Authorities Council (AFAC) conference, held virtually for the first time in October and attracting nearly 3000 participants.

Dr Marta Yebra presented on the ANU Bushfire Initiative, while Emeritus Professor Steve Dovers and Fenner School PhD graduate Dr Nadeem Samnakay presented a paper analysing the strength of Australia’s disaster policies and the threat of populistic politics to coherent policy.

Dr Michael Eburn explored legal and social expectations versus realities in his presentation, and Fenner School PhD alumni Dr Susan Hunt and Dr Adam Leavesley delivered papers on, respectively, local government efforts to build community resilience, and the impact of fuel management in the ACT 2020 bushfires.

The conference was a great platform to profile ANU research and continue to strengthen relationships with research users including emergency services agencies.

ANU collaboration working to integrate distributed energy generation and storage into the Australian grid

Australia is leading the world in rooftop solar per capita with one in four homes across the country having adopted residential photovoltaics (PV). As a consequence, we are also on track to have the most decentralised electricity network in the world in coming years. This rapid uptake of solar PV, as well as a range of other renewable energy technologies, referred to as Distributed energy resources, requires a nation-wide approach to the development of technical standards to ensure that these technologies can be integrated into the energy system for the benefit of all energy users.

A team at the ANU Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program (BSGIP), led by Professor Lachlan Blackhall, are working on a joint initiative to support this integration and support the energy transition in Australia.

In particular, technical standards and common protocols are required to harness the ability of these new DER technologies to integrate with network and market systems, to ensure a reliable, secure and resilient energy supply. In August, DEIP facilitated the release of The Common Smart Inverter Profile (CSIP) – Australia - an implementation guide that enables technology systems, devices and software to “talk to each other”.

CSIP is one of the key enablers for supporting the reforms outlined in the Energy Security Board’s Post 2025 Market Design Final Advice to Ministers.

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Reducing carbon emissions not enough, expert warns

 “We are now beyond the point of simply needing to reduce carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to a leading scientist from The Australian National University (ANU). ”

Professor Nerilie Abram is the only Australian-based member of a new international scientific body, the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG).

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In the Media


Image: Shutterstock

Australia's first satellite that can help detect bushfires within one minute of ignition set for launch

14 March, ABC News

Imagine a system that could detect any bushfire in Australia within minutes of ignition so firefighters could tackle the blaze before it spreads.

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Image: ANU

Not drowning, fighting

3 June, Inside Story

Have reporters’ cliches got in the way of understanding how Pacific islanders are dealing with climate change? Featuring Associate Professor Katerina Teiwa.

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Image: Shutterstock

From climate change to COVID, Gen Z's premature mid-life crisis could be a tale of hope and resilience

3 October, ABC News

Is this a more resilient, shock-proof generation? Authored by Intifar Chowdhury.

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Image: Shutterstock

NSW government’s assessment of raising Warragamba dam wall ‘totally inadequate’, critics say

29 September, The Guardian

The environmental impact statement has ‘massively underestimated’ effects on wildlife, advocates say. Featuring Professor Jamie Pittock.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Greg Stonham

Did we underestimate the health effects of the Black Summer bushfires?

14 October, COSMOS Magazine

Study reveals the physical and mental impacts of bushfire smoke.

Featuring Professor Iain Walker.

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Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

United Nations COP26 Climate Summit

ANU Media commentary on COP26 generated over 500 media items across print, online and radio. These items reached a total potential audience of up to 27 million people.

ANU Media distributed a release with comments from ANU Experts attending COP26, namely Dr Siobhan McDonnell, Dr Ian Fry and Salā Dr George Carter and Dr Virginia Marshall. The article calls for a greater focus at COP26, on the issues facing Pacific nations.

A number of ICEDS members also contributed their comments to the ANU Experts list on COP26, speaking to matters relating to the conference. The extensive commentary shows the depth of expertise in climate, energy and disaster research at ANU.

Photo: Pixabay

We need more female leaders in the fight against climate change

12 November, The Guardian

Diverse participation leads to more robust solutions.

Authored by Dr Maria Tanyag.

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Could the World’s Largest Green Energy Hub Redefine How Companies Work With Indigenous People?

16 July, TIME

For the world to reach net zero emissions, huge fields of solar panels and towering wind turbines will need to cover vast tracts of the Earth. In much of the world, that means building in places where Indigenous people live and have rights to the land.

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Connect with the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions

If you’d like to get involved in ANU climate change activities, email to subscribe to our regular e-newsletter and follow us on social media.

Updated:  6 February 2023/Responsible Officer:  College of Science/Page Contact: