Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme.
– United Nations

In collaboration with industry and community, we investigate key aspects of climate change and renewable technologies, as well as the policy and practice of adequate responses to these challenges.

The Sustainable Futures Innovation Hub in Werribee focuses on responsible consumption and production in key industry sectors, with the objectives of reducing waste and progressing the circular economy.

Meanwhile, our campuses and facilities place climate-change mitigation at the forefront of our building design and energy and water-use practices.

13 Climate action (eye with planet as iris icon)

Research projects & engagement 2020-21

Research with impact

Our vision is to create sustainable infrastructure, improving the lives of the community and future generations. We work across different disciplines and closely with government and industry to develop solutions.

The Centre of Policy Studies undertook modelling projects, using country and regional specific models, to evaluate the impact of natural disasters and responses to climate change on economic conditions.

In 2014, the Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), in collaboration with ClimateWorks, ANU and the CSIRO, authored an influential and widely cited paper 'Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation by 2050' as part of the global UN-sponsored 2050 Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project.  As part of VU’s planetary health commitment, CoPS revisited this work to reassess the impact of net-zero by 2050, considering changes in technology, and economic opportunities and costs. The paper is the first in a series of papers examining the economic impacts of a transition to net zero emissions and possible policy responses in Australia. It shows that Australia’s economy would double by 2050 if it transitioned to net-zero emissions.  The modelling was completed just prior to the release of the Australian government’s Australia’s Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan in response to COP26. The modelling enabled CoPS to provide an informed critique of the Australian government’s emission target of net-zero by 2050.

The Centre of Policy Studies collaborated with China’s University of International Business and Economics, to model the energy and economic changes flowing from carbon neutrality.  To achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 China will need to substantially change its energy consumption structure, but the cost of the reduction on China’s macro economy will be limited, with an expected 1.36 per cent reduction in GDP.

The water and fire research teams at VU develop models for floods and fire spread to develop management strategies and operational responses. Despite advances in flood management, flood losses are increasing worldwide due to climate change and population increases. 

Low- to middle-income nations need cost-effective methods to assess flood risks and effectiveness of mitigation measures.  VU’s water researchers joined researchers from Australia and from Pakistan to assess and visualise expected annual damages (EAD) from flood risk.  The research concluded that Geographic Information System based EAD maps provide a cost-effective solution for modelling the flood risks and an accurate estimate of the residual risks after the mitigation measures are applied.

Agricultural damage due to floods in the Indus basin’s fertile land is a continuing problem for Pakistan. Muhammad Tariq, Zohreh Raiabi and Nitin Muttil in this study of the area, make recommendations to both reduce flood risks and to increase the economic benefits of the floodplain agriculture.  The flood management strategy is shown to be most effective using a combination of structural measures – built flood controls – and non-structural measures: the crop types and suitable locations for better yields.

VU's Roan Plotz and researchers from the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia and four Pacific Island nations collaborated on incorporating traditional indigenous seasonal calendars into bureau’s climate communication and education, including in forecasts and warnings. The use of traditional calendars makes the Bureau’s knowledge more relevant and accessible to support Indigenous communities’ capacity to deal with climate variability and change.

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Collaborative Research Centre (BNHCRC) is guided by the end-user emergency services to improve response to disasters.  Bushfire defence needs both good data on fire spread and volunteer fire fighters.  The Fire Research team contributes to BNHCRC investigations to inform emergency services responses to bushfires.  In 2021, the team modelled fire spread across different fuel types for the development of effective fire fighting strategies.   Fiona Macdonald from the Diversity and Inclusion research group wrote a report for the emergency management organisations on how to engage with young people, to effectively encourage and work with young volunteers for emergency services.

The Centre of Policy Studies undertook a number of modelling projects to predict the impact of climate change on agriculture and industries in Australia and internationally.

Zero net Emissions by 2050 – what it means for Australian regions, industries and jobs is a project to model the changes needed to the structure of the Australian economy to achieve zero emissions. The research by Philip Adams, Christopher King will provide an update to the 2014 UN-sponsored 2050 Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project report, in light of changes to the energy landscape.

John Madden was a co-editor of a book published in 2020, New Frontiers in Regional Science: Asian Perspectives, Environmental Economics and Computable General Equilibrium Analysis (CGE), which involved researchers from CoPS, Asia and North and South America using CGE models to examine the economic costs, effective responses and risk management for environmental impact scenarios. CoPS researchers collaborated on chapters on the impact of climate change and epidemics on developing nations. In response to the call by the National Science and Technology Advisors from a dozen countries for publishers to make their COVID-19 and coronavirus- related publications and data immediately accessible, the chapters were provided to PubMed Central (PMC) and other public repositories to support health emergency response efforts. The selection of models that will accurately predict the likely future climate for a specific geographical location is a crucial step to assess impacts of climate change on different sectors.

In Representative general circulation models selection and downscaling of climate data for the transboundary Koshi river basin in China and Nepal VU researchers Santosh Kaini, Ted Gardner and Ashok K. Sharma teamed up with Nepal researchers Santosh Nepal and Saurav Pradhananga to develop and evaluate models for short-term to long-range forecasting of climate change impacts for specific regions.

The Pacific Ocean Heat Engine by Roger Jones and James Rickets provides a greater understanding of the complex relationship between the absorption and later release of heat into the atmosphere by the ‘heat engine’ spanning the tropical Pacific Ocean triggering surface temperature changes in Europe. This model will help anticipate how greenhouse gas which forces rises in the temperature of the Pacific will transfer to the northern hemisphere.

Building energy use is estimated to contribute 40% of the global energy demand and to currently produce one-third of global green house gas emissions with the potential to double by 2030. Current methods for using computer simulations to optimise building energy use for design or retrofitting require a high number of calculations. In Building energy optimization using surrogate model and active sampling, Keivan Bamdad joined with Michael Cholette and John Bell from Queensland University of Technology to develop a method to calculate an optimal solution with a lower computational cost.


VU launched four innovation hubs in 2021 to activate opportunities through partnership development and acceleration and incubation programs to develop innovation and entrepreneurial capabilities in Melbourne’s west.

The Sustainable Futures Hub focuses on responsible consumption and production practices in the water, construction and packaging industries, contributing to the State Government’s Recycling Victoria Strategy, the advancement of the circular economy and waste reduction. The research is delivering sustainable outcomes in relation to major infrastructure projects, specific infrastructure challenges for the west of Melbourne, packaging needs for various export industries and environmental water issues across Werribee.

The Tasmanian government used CoPS modelling to inform the adoption of a zero emissions policy. The modelling showed the impact of the roll-out, of the best-fit emissions opportunities for Tasmania’s real gross state product overall, and for industry specific employment, and industry output.

The state of Victoria Treasury and Finance department commissioned CoPS to quantify the economic impacts of the 2019-20 Bushfires on Victoria, with the losses estimated to be $2.1 billion due to the suppression of tourism over a number of years. 

The School for the Visitor Economy in collaboration with the Victoria Tourism Industry Council examined the aftermath of the 2020 Victorian bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic to determine the factors for building the resilience of tourism destinations to disasters.

VISES researchers, Celeste Young, Roger Jones and Craig McCormick, are members of Natural Hazards Research Australia, a group dedicated to providing actionable research on responses to natural disasters.  The researchers partnered with the Victorian Council of Social Services to investigate community responses and recovery to the bushfire disasters of 2020.

The ISILC team of Malindu Sansanayake, Yanni Bouras, Robert Haigh and Zora Vrcelj conducted a comprehensive review of Current Sustainable Trends of Using Waste Materials in Concrete in preparation for an international project to develop a new concrete made with recycled materials. The new concrete is intended to replace the conventional Portland Cement concrete which contributes significantly to global CO2 emissions, second only to fossil fuels.


Victoria University offers programs focused on the environment and sustainability.

VU offers a broad range of courses across vocational education (TAFE) and higher education (university) addressing planetary health, and community health and sustainability.

The Master of Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management focuses on ‘Green Growth’ and sustainability and how these themes can benefit businesses in the sector and local communities.  The course features units like 'Green growth transformation of destinations'.

The Associate Degree in Hospitality and Hotel Management teaches how to run sustainable hotel management and sustainable tourism operations.

VU's Centre of Policy Studies reassessed the impact of net-zero by 2050, considering changes in technology, and economic opportunities and costs.

Sustainability on campus

University 2021 renewable energy use:

  • Renewable Energy 9,198,968 KWh out of Total Energy 18,556,886 KWh = 50%
  • An additional non-renewable energy offset by surrendering 554 Large-Scale generation certificate (LGC) equivalent to 554,000 kWh.

2021 greenhouse gas emissions: 12,327 tonnes CO2e

In 2021 the University also signed a power purchase agreement to procure 100% renewable electricity. This agreement has reduced carbon emissions by more than 70% when compared to 2019.