Extreme weather events have been dominating news headlines in recent weeks, reinforcing the devastating impacts of climate change and the need for continued global action. Across the Northern Hemisphere, scorching temperatures have broken world records, with July set to be the hottest month on Earth in recorded history. As El Nino arrives again in Australia, predictions for our own coming summer are grim and a reminder that we need to act now.
The University of Wollongong (UOW) is proud to be contributing to climate solutions. Harnessing our expertise, passion and strength to create a positive impact in local and global communities is at the forefront of everything we do - in fact, it is the reason we exist.
Our future must be clean, efficient, and sustainable, and along with our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have made sustainability the foundation of our operations and culture. In the 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measure universities against the SDGs, we ranked an impressive 61st out of 1591 institutions worldwide.
This outstanding result is a testament to our commitment to sustainability. But the proof is in the pudding: we have taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce our environmental footprint, including switching campus buildings to 100 per cent renewable energy sources, reducing waste sent to landfill, introducing water-saving measures on campus, and educating and empowering staff to be sustainable citizens.
A new force in our arsenal to address climate challenges is UOW's Data Science, Discovery and Innovation Centre, a space for innovation, quality research, and global collaboration, located in Expo City, Dubai. Built for World Expo 2020, it has been re-purposed as a multi-use green and tech-enabled city of the future, built around sustainability. Thanks to UOW's longstanding presence in Dubai, the Australian Government recently gifted the university the Australian Expo Pavilion to create the Centre, with strong support also from the NSW Government.
This is a unique opportunity to take Wollongong to the world, starting at COP28, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, held from November 30 to December 12 right in our second home - Dubai. This international climate summit has been held annually since the first UN climate agreement in 1992 and brings world leaders together to work on solutions to tackle climate change.
COP28 will unite governments and business, global communities, not-for-profit organisations and youth to drive inclusive progress towards climate action. This year's conference will emphasise a 'leave no one behind' approach, with the principles of transformation, solidarity, pragmatism, and inclusivity at the core of discussions. The president of COP28 His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber has announced that this COP will be focused on "tangible climate action", emphasising the importance of applied research in providing solutions.
Delegates will come from across the world, and include representatives from the global clean energy sector, investors in climate change technology, researchers, school groups and the public.
UOW's Data Science, Discovery and Innovation Centre is located nearby COP28, and delegates will be able to visit the building in the lead up to and during the conference. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to capture globally influential hearts and minds as we showcase UOW's bench strength in sustainable technology and related research, and our ambition to lead solutions for global warming - from causes and impacts to responses.
Led by Professor David Currow from Australia and Professor Mohamed Salem from UOW Dubai, we are working with research and industry partners to showcase our broad range of innovative and impactful climate research, and collaborative clean energy technology development.
One of these partners is Hysata, which has revolutionised electrolysis technology needed to create affordable renewable hydrogen. Hysata uses technology developed at the University of Wollongong to create hydrogen faster, and ultra-efficiently, a major breakthrough in the attempt to make green hydrogen competitive with fossil fuels. The simple system design can be produced cheaply, is highly reliable, and reduces operating costs.
Hysata's technology will quicken global economies on the journey to net zero. It is estimated that green hydrogen will provide 15 to 20 per cent of global energy demand in 2050, worth $2.5 trillion. This Illawarra-born ingenuity will help Australia capture a large share of that market, adding billions a year in additional Gross Domestic Product to Australia's economy and generating thousands of jobs, including in our region.
UOW electrochemist Senior Professor Gerhard Swiegers was recently named a 2023 Australian Research Council Industry Laureate Fellow and awarded a grant of $3.7 million to further his electrolyser research. The ARC industry fellowship program aims to create two-way mobility between industry and researchers, increasing skill-building in research collaboration, translation and commercialisation.
I am constantly amazed at the creativity, determination, and progressive thinking of our research and professional staff, our alumni and industry partners as they tackle the world's most pressing issues. I could not be prouder that the Illawarra is at the forefront of climate solutions, and that we will get to show the world at COP28 the huge contribution we are making.
- Professor Patricia Davidson is Vice-Chancellor of UOW.