Office for Environmental Programs - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 337
The urban political ecology of access to solar PV: Energy justice and climate justice in the Darebin Solar Saver program
Certain groups within society, including the poor, the elderly, and those renting their homes are at risk of bearing disproportionate costs resulting from the transition to a low-carbon economy. These groups are particularly at risk of energy injustice and climate injustice related to being able to purchase sufficient energy or being able to adequately heat or cool their homes as the impacts of climate change continue. The Darebin Solar Saver program in the City of Darebin, Melbourne, Victoria is an attempt to address these issues. The program enables pensioners, low-income residents and renters (the target audience) in Darebin to install solar PV on their home with no upfront costs and with system costs repaid interest-free through their council rates over ten years. This research identified how well the program was successful in reaching its target audience and the extent to which it was successful in achieving climate justice and energy justice outcomes for participants in the years 2018 and 2019. During the years 2018-2019, the scheme was expanded to all Darebin residents to reach Darebin City Council’s goal to double solar generation capacity in Darebin from 19 to 38 MW. A survey was sent to program participants who received solar PV in 2018-2019, and four randomly selected survey respondents were interviewed: two Darebin City Councillors and one former Darebin Solar Saver staff member. Once the scheme was expanded in 2018-2019, demand by residents outpaced the council’s capacity to both deliver solar PV installs and actively focus recruitment efforts towards its target audience. Wealthier homeowners joined the scheme at the expense of those with lower incomes. The program failed to reach many renters, although this was one group within the target audience. Energy and climate justice was achieved for the 32.8% of low-income and pensioner residents who were reached through the program, and to a lesser extent for nearly half of other survey respondents. Schemes such as Darebin Solar Saver have the potential to achieve energy justice and climate justice outcomes for residents at risk of energy poverty and disproportionate climate impacts. However, this and other similar schemes must be actively targeted to achieve equity and justice goals.
The Impacts of the COVID-19 on Rural Poverty Alleviation in China
Under the circumstance of the widespread influence caused by the COVID-19 and the end year of China's long-term poverty alleviation program, this research aims to investigate how the pandemic impacts the rural poverty alleviation in China and the risks of returning to poverty caused by the COVID-19. The study chooses one poverty village, which was lifted out of poverty before the pandemic as the study area. Semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis of poverty alleviation data are conducted to investigate the impact degrees. The key findings are the strict lockdown measures imposed to prevent the spread of the epidemic have decreased the poverty households' incomes. Meanwhile, many migrant workers were forbidden to return to the village, which caused mental stress among older people and children. As a result of such impacts, the risk of returning to poverty in the village has been increased. In addition, the research reveals that there are false figures and wrong numbers in the official poverty alleviation documents, which critically challenges the achievements of China's poverty alleviation program.
Nourishing Modern Environmental Ethics with Confucian Philosophy
Environmental studies encompass a vast range of approaches to understand the causes of and to resolve environmental problems. Among these varieties, environmental ethics deals with indispensable considerations of human-nature relationship, the kind of value that humankind assigns to nature, the reason why humankind should conserve nature and so forth. Alongside Western schools of environmental ethics such as deep ecology and ecofeminism, this research project explores ideas from Confucianism for a non-Western perspective of environmental ethics. The Confucian cosmology, and the principle of harmony, justice, self-cultivation and humaneness provide insights into negotiating human-nature relationship and guiding pro-environmental dispositions which are comparable to post-humanism. Confucianism posits that humankind is an integral part of the universe and that human beings form a reciprocal relationship with non-human beings through continuous dynamic interactions. To maintain the livelihood of human beings and the vitality of nature, people should learn from nature to understand how the life-sustaining processes operate and hence to act in harmony with them for the benefit of both humankind and the whole environment system. Confucianism also encourages people to give universal love and care to all human and non-human others, and make their wills and actions just by avoiding excessiveness or extremes. This alludes to a symbiosis of humankind and natural environment whilst negates an exploitive attitude towards nature. These ideas are examined in the context of contemporary China for Confucianism’s long embeddedness in there as an indigenous philosophy. The reciprocal view on human-nature relationship and the principle of harmonising practices with natural patterns have manifested in China’s development policy. The goals of environmental education also resonate with Confucian view of being, learning and practice, and the commitment to social responsibility. However, in presence of competing ideologies such as neoliberalism within the country and across the globe, the application of Confucian ethics in guiding environmental protection is piecemeal. It is suggested that enacting Confucian principles as an alternative of environmental ethics in the contexts of education, politics, governance, economy, environmentalism and culture in an integrative way is required to align logics and practices at multiple scales and dimensions.
Current builders’ capacities to deliver zero energy buildings in China
To strengthen the global fight against climate change, China pledges to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. As one of the major energy consumption sectors in China, the building industry’s role in CO2 emission reductions is critical to the successful pursuit of the carbon neutrality goal. The concept of zero energy buildings (ZEBs) has gained increasing attention in China due to its effective efforts on energy saving and emission reduction. The objectives of this research are to understand the status quo of ZEB design and construction features in China, to investigate current builders’ capacities for delivering ZEBs in China, to explore the differences in design and construction capacities of conventional and ZEB builders in China and to assess the potentials of boosting Chinese builders' capacities for delivering ZEBs in the future. The research methods embrace several steps. Firstly, a literature review is provided to understand the status quo of ZEB development in China. Secondly, a checklist was developed based on the literature review to assess builders’ capacities to deliver ZEBs in China. Thirdly, relationships between different checklist questions were analyzed using association rule in software SPSS modeler. Fourthly, builders were clustered using TwoStep Cluster Analysis in software SPSS modeler. The findings of this research suggest that most Chinese builders, even ZEB builders have insufficient ZEB design and construction knowledge. ZEB demonstration projects are mainly developed in cooperation with foreign professional institutions. Moreover, conventional builders are less competitive than ZEB builders in passive design capacity, energy efficient building design capacity, renewable energy generation capacity and research capacity, which are the key skills that conventional builders are supposed to improve. Furthermore, one-third of conventional builders have NZEBs or ULEBs production experience. They have acquired related ZEB delivery capacities and they are the most likely ZEB builders in the future.
Implications of economic factors on TCFD scenario analysis
The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has recommended that corporations publish a number of disclosures designed to inform investors and other interested stakeholders of the corporation’s exposure to risks relating to climate change. One key recommendation is that corporations undertake scenario analysis against climate scenarios, including (at a minimum) a 2°C scenario. However, the TCFD has identified scenario analysis as the recommended disclosure with the lowest level of implementation by organisations (TCFD, 2018). This was supported by analysis undertaken by Market Forces (2019) which confirmed that of 72 corporations in the ASX100 that operate in key sectors identified by the TCFD, only ten had undertaken scenario analysis on either their entire business or significant segments of their operations. This research considers the publicly-available scenarios being utilised by these corporations, and examines the economic assumptions underpinning these scenarios to determine whether such assumptions are realistic and robust by comparing these assumptions against projections from mainstream economic forecasters. Ensuring that these scenarios are based on robust assumptions may support the usefulness of scenario analysis as a source of information for corporations and investors, as well as for other stakeholders. The results of this analysis show that the ten corporations identified by Market Forces use a wide variety of climate-related scenarios and targets, including legislated targets, scenarios published by the International Energy Agency, and the Representative Concentration Pathways. In several cases, corporations either combine multiple publicly-available scenarios into a single tailored scenario or modify underlying assumptions of a publicly-available scenario to better suit their assumptions and circumstances. Further, comparison of the economic assumptions underpinning these scenarios against long-term economic forecasts suggests that some publicly-available 1.5 and 2°C-aligned climate scenarios (particularly the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) may overstate future economic growth rates over the short term (to 2030) and medium term (to 2040), which may negatively impact the robustness of these scenarios. Possible reasons for this difference include changed macroeconomic and geopolitical contexts since the scenarios and forecasts were first developed, and different consideration of the underlying state of the economy as an input into the scenario or forecast (for example, levels of debt following the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009). It is also noteworthy that the potential impacts of climate change on the economy are explicitly excluded from most of the identified scenarios. These results are discussed in the context of the challenges for corporations and investors in undertaking scenario analysis, as well as in the broader context of the interrelationship between the environment and the economy.
Sustainable transitions in cities: local transformation in an urbanising world
Cities are recognised globally as crucial sites for sustainable development. There is increasing uptake of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by city governments, but complexities remain in how these goals are applied to urban planning processes and how to maximise sustainable transitions locally. Addressing this premise, this paper aims to examine how various methods of engagement with the SDGs by city governments can drive the transition toward sustainable urban development. This research applies an urban governance framework from sustainable transitions theory (Transition Management) to assess various methods of city-level engagement with the SDGs across the Asia-Pacific – the most rapidly urbanising region in the world. Eight SDG reports published by cities were analysed, and six interviews were conducted with city actors engaging in an active SDG localisation project. Regional commonalities are analysed using the four spheres of Transition Management – strategic, tactical, operational, and reflexive – to understand how cities undergo transformative change and assesses whether local engagement with the SDGs has the potential to drive global change. The findings indicate that city-level engagement with the SDGs does have the potential to influence urban development outcomes. A city government’s capacity to engage with, and more importantly, measure the impact of localising the SDGs underpinned effective implementation. Widespread uptake of the goals proved challenging due to urban heterogeneity, but city-to-city peer learning was identified as a key enabler for local-level engagement. This study underlines the need for flexibility in the format and process of SDG engagement, while also providing for the critical need for relevant local data to support local policy setting. The outcomes suggest that a more focussed approach to SDG localisation is needed, to better define and measure the factors for success, and to help city governments identify those mechanisms that will generate tangible impact at a local and global level.
Flood management now and into the future: Evaluation of development plan and climate change adaptation plan towards blue-green infrastructure adoption in Jakarta, Indonesia
A more sustainable approach to flood risk reduction that uses nature-based systems is gaining traction across the globe. This approach that is known as Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) is critical to be implemented in flood-prone cities, such as Jakarta, as it can provide multiple advantages for the community and the environment, such as improved well-being, aesthetics and biodiversity. More significantly, BGI can offer benefits related to crucial climate change challenges, including land surface temperature reduction, carbon sequestration and sea level rise adaptation. Given these significant advantages, this study seeks to investigate whether and to what extent BGI interventions, benefits, barriers and drivers are acknowledged in Jakarta’s Mid-Term Development Plan (MTDP) and Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP). The study combined qualitative and quantitative content analysis to evaluate these plans in terms of BGI interventions, benefits, barriers and drivers. It contributes to the preliminary research of current adoption of BGI and critique of the MTDP and CCAP of Jakarta. The findings show that BGI planning in Jakarta is still in its infancy demonstrated by the lack of varied BGI interventions and benefits that are acknowledged in the two plans. The barriers of BGI adoption are also less addressed in the plans for action compared to the drivers. It calls for a more rigorous BGI planning in Jakarta to enhance its uptake by varying BGI interventions, acknowledging climate change, environmental and health benefits and conducting a preliminary study to better address barriers and drivers in the plans. Suggested further research include analysing local agencies strategic plans, evaluating city program implementation and employing community interviews.
BARRIERS TO THE ADOPTION OF SOIL CARBON SEQUESTRATION PROJECTS IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
The potential of soil carbon sequestration (SCS) as a method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been globally recognised through the establishment of various policy initiatives. The success of these policies is largely dependent on the participation of farmers and landholders. In Australia, the government introduced policies such as the Emissions Reduction Fund, and the Carbon Farming Initiative in order to incentivize the adoption of SCS practices. Despite these legislative developments and their associated positive incentives, the widespread adoption of these practices has so far not been realised, suggesting that there are substantial barriers that prevent farmers and landholders from adopting SCS projects. This literature review will focus on assessing these barriers in Victoria, as the state has engaged the lowest percentage of SCS project proponents among all Australian states. The review will also address these impediments at the catchment scale by using the Goulburn Broken Catchment (GBC) as a case study. By reviewing policies, strategies, and legislation relevant to SCS in Victoria, five key components have been identified under which the barriers to adoption are associated. They include project requirements and liabilities, additional costs and economic risks, issues with carbon markets, lack of information and trust, and farmer perceptions and motivations. In addition to these barriers, within the GBC the misalignment of SCS with the catchment’s priorities, and lack of integration of actions have also been identified as important constraints. To mitigate these barriers the review concludes with a brief outline of the changes that are required in policy and government initiatives to stimulate the widespread uptake of SCS projects and allow these projects to play a significant role in meeting Australia’s emission reductions targets. Furthermore, research is also warranted on the perspectives of farmers and landholders within the land sectors of Victoria to better understand and mitigate these barriers to SCS project adoption.
Effects of the land-use change on fire patterns in the Gran Chaco ecoregion
The Gran Chaco landscape was made up of an aggregate of dry forests, savannas, and grasslands, maintained by periodic fires produced by native populations. However, it has observed various modifications in land use over the last centuries. First, the fire regimes decreased due to the introduction of domestic herbivores and a consequent reduction in fine fuels and brush encroachment. More recently, towards the second half of the last century, there was an increase in the frequency of fires associated with prescribed burns aimed at the control of woodland. This research project studied the influence of land-use change in the fire patterns of the Gran Chaco Ecoregion by through (i) a temporal analysis of land cover change, (ii) a temporal analysis of burned area, and (iii) an analysis of the effect of cropping extent on area burned. The spatial analysis was performed with data products derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This spatial analysis was performed over a temporal series of 18 years, from the year 2001 to the year 2019. The pre-processing of the data was performed on Google Earth Engine and the statistical analysis was done through R studio version 4.0.0. The results show that the Gran Chaco is under constant change of land use that result in modifications of the landscape. The main findings were that the increase of croplands and grasslands area increased for the first nine years and then decreased while the burned area showed a decrease tendency at the beginning of the study period. These changes in the landscape vary depending on the area of the Gran Chaco being observed, as well on the time frame considered. According to the analysis, the cropland and grassland areas increased during the first half of the study period, while the burned area decreased. On the last years of the study period, cropland and grassland decreased, while burned area presented more variability. The decrease of croplands and grasslands can be as consequence of land abandonment. As for the geographical distribution of changes, the area of the Gran Chaco that observed greater changes during the study period was the fraction located in Paraguay. The unexpected initial high rates of burned area can be related to the historical use of the fire to clear the land.
Effects of vegetation structure, fire and habitat amount on microbat functional diversity
Human modification of land cover and disturbance regimes is occurring at unprecedented rates globally, and often results in significant biodiversity loss. However, it is often unclear how the loss of species affects ecosystem function. The relationship between ecosystem function and biodiversity depends on the functional traits and niches filled by organisms, as these traits respond to and drive ecosystem processes. Functional diversity describes the range, value and distribution of traits and is a better predictor of ecosystem function than species richness. This study investigated the effects of vegetation structure, fire and habitat amount on microbat functional diversity. Using passive acoustic monitoring, we surveyed microbats at 140 sites over two years. Four bat functional traits were used to calculate four functional diversity indices (richness, evenness, divergence and dispersion). The influence of vegetation structural complexity, time since fire and habitat amount on bat functional diversity and species richness was examined using generalised linear models. With the exception of one measure of functional diversity, time since fire did not influence any of the response variables. In contrast, vegetation structural complexity was a much stronger predictor of functional diversity than time since fire, with functional diversity increased in more structurally open environments. Both functional evenness and functional dispersion of bats were both positively associated with habitat amount, indicating that increased habitat amount results in reduced environmental filtering and an increased breadth of functional roles performed by the bat community. Finally, FD responses often depended on the survey year, indicating that responses were influenced by temporal variability in background conditions. These findings suggest that management for biodiversity should be focused on optimising vegetation structure through the use of fire, rather than focusing on fire regime alone. Further, management actions that protect and increase habitat amount should, therefore, increase overall bat functional diversity arising from the increased abundance of foraging and roosting resources available. Lastly, long-term monitoring programs measure species responses across a variety of conditions, thereby providing more representative evidence to develop well informed management decisions.
Fossil Free: a case-study of the University of Melbourne
Fossil Free is a global movement, calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies. In 2013, students from the University of Melbourne (the University) formed the Fossil Free Melbourne Uni (FFMU) campaign, calling on the University to divest its endowment fund from fossil fuels. FFMU exerted significant influence on sustainability governance and responsible investment practices in the University, but divestment was not achieved. This case study investigates the interaction between the FFMU campaign and the University, looking into why divestment was not agreed to, and the University’s response to the campaign, from both a student and University perspective. The study provides an opportunity to expand the relatively limited scholarship on institutional (resistance to) change in universities.
Service Sector Development in Bangladesh:
An Approach towards Environmental Sustainability
‘Made in Bangladesh’ is a globally renowned name in the ready-made garment (RMG) export market. However, this accomplishment comes with an exhaustive environmental footprint. The industry simultaneously pollutes surface water and depletes groundwater. Regardless of the overarching damage, RMG manufacturing industries continue to flourish in Bangladesh. Thus, concurrent challenges and limitations arise. These issues need to be overcome by broadening the scope of the service sector, while also reducing dependency on the cheap, labour-intensive RMG manufacturing industry. This study examines the extent to which Bangladesh must embrace the service sector and environmental sustainability to overcome the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This research focuses on why and how Bangladesh should concentrate on the service sector, despite it having a strong position in the competitive global RMG market. This study found that challenges to RMG are the result of a history of exploitation, as well as an existing dependency on abundant cheap manual labour. Furthermore, the application of Porter’s Diamond model in the study shows that the phase-out of Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) is another challenge associated with global competitiveness. Limitations on adopting automation and innovation in the industry have also been a major challenge, resulting in recent layoffs and declining orders. In addition, COVID-19, along with western efforts to reduce fast fashion consumption, has slowed down demand. The use of advanced technology would further result in significant changes to the labour market and the loss of manual labour jobs, adversely affecting the labour force, which predominantly comprises women. Although industrial automation has already begun in Bangladesh, a larger roll-out in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector is still required. To cope with the situation, seizing the advantage of an ongoing demographic dividend until 2040 and training the manual labour force to be adaptable, with both soft and hard skills, will help Bangladesh to meet the challenges of the 4IR and avoid an economic downturn. These initiatives would also contribute less to environmental degradation. Altogether, this thesis offers a holistic approach to unveiling the opportunities of service sector development to reduce pervasive environmental pollution in Bangladesh.