Congratulations to the Australian National University, and the Australian Capital Territory government which defied federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s rejection of its bid to co-host a $50 million Climate Change Institute. They will go ahead without federal government money, to establish a world-class research facility.
It’s encouraging when universities can show some independence and gumption.
"This is simply far too important and urgent for Australia not to have some of the nation’s best scientists working together on climate change," ANU vice-chancellor Ian Chubb told the Canberra Times. Yesterday, the Canberra Times reported that minister Turnbull had overruled an expert panel’s recommendation after pressure from Prime Minister John Howard to favour a rival bid led by a university in the Liberal seat of Moncrieff, on the Gold Coast.
Professor Chubb said the ANU and the ACT Government had agreed to commit $5 million in capital funding for a new building on campus to house the research centre. Work would begin as soon as possible, and key research projects had already been identified. "We don’t have to wait for the building to be finished to start work. Climate change is a pressing issue and we already have the necessary expertise and the research programs up and running. We don’t need to delay, we can start tonight or tomorrow to deliver the research Australia needs."
Professor Chubb said the ANU would maintain and strengthen links forged with members of the Universities Climate Consortium, and work to spearhead national leadership in climate change research and policy. "A singularly significant group of scientists formed the base for the original consortium and none of us want that energy and talent to dissipate. . . . Adapting to the inevitable climatic changes impacting on Australia over the coming decades is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation. As the national university, we need to take a lead in producing the high quality knowledge needed to underpin effective adaptation."
The centre was to be led by the director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society, international climate change expert, Will Steffen. "We have discussed the matter with our partner universities and agreed the research is so important we should probably ignore the political process and proceed anyway," Professor Steffen said.
As well as coordinating a national research effort, the new ANU centre was to focus strongly on climate change issues in the ACT, and work with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, the ACT Government and the University of Canberra to identify and manage climate change challenges that are likely to intensify throughout the region. A core group of 30 researchers across various departments at the ANU have already pooled expertise on a broad range of social, economic, scientific and policy research