New ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions

Bush fires approach two wind turbines.
10 February 2021

The Australian National University has established a new Institute to facilitate, lead and support research, teaching and engagement on how we can address climate change, disasters and the transformation of our energy systems.

The new ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions continues the scholarship, teaching and outreach fostered by the former Climate Change Institute, Energy Change Institute, and Disaster Risk Science Institute, and builds on their strengths.

"We've seen how climate disruption can hit energy systems such as in the Black Summer bush fires which had flow on effects on communications, banking and the delivery of petrol for vehicles,” Professor Mark Howden, the new Institute’s Director, said.

“Likewise, we see how energy systems can impact on our climate through greenhouse gas emissions, and how we can successfully transform our energy systems to reduce this impact, as well as deliver additional benefits.

“It’s very clear now that climate change is impacting on extreme events around the globe and especially here in Australia. Disasters occur at the intersection of those extreme events and human decisions in relation to infrastructure, governance and behavior.

“It will become increasingly important to look at how we can make good climate adaptation decisions that reduce our risks from disasters, speed recovery times and effectiveness and limit impacts of future extreme events. With the launch of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disasters Solutions we’re bringing additional capability to these three areas, but in particular taking an integrated approach to the intersections of those areas.

“In some ways, Australia is almost the archetype country for dealing with climate, energy and disaster risks in an integrated way because of our past trajectories of development, high exposure to extreme events and also our significant capabilities for technology and governance.

“The challenge ahead is to effectively harness these capabilities to generate broad societal benefit”.

Professor Howden will head the new institute, as well as its climate change operations. The University will look internally to hire a new Head of Energy and a Head of Disaster Risk.

“On behalf of the University, I wanted to thank Professor Ken Baldwin, inaugural Director of the ANU Energy Change Institute, and the late Hon. Professor Helen James, Founding Director of the Disaster Risk Science Institute, for their enormous contributions,” Professor Howden said.

“Both have played a major role in helping to develop the University’s reputation for national leadership in energy change and disaster risk science.

“I also wanted to thank all the members of the three institutes for their efforts and look forward to working closely with them.”

A series of internal and external consultations will be held in the coming weeks to help steer the strategic direction of the consolidated institute.

The new Institute is also responsible for integrating the research, teaching and community engagement aspects of the ANU Below Zero Initiative as well as overall leadership. This initiative aims to reduce ANU greenhouse gas emissions to below zero as soon as possible.