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Sustainability Assessment of Cities


The topic of the research is to create a quantitative modelling framework for assessing the absolute sustainability of cities by combining global multi-region input-output (MRIO) analysis with the ‘safe and just space’ (SJS) concept for human development. The model will allow assessment of the full supply chain environmental and social impacts of urban economic activities against biophysical planetary limits as well as social foundation thresholds defined in the literature. The project will advance sustainability science methodology and will greatly benefit worldwide initiatives for urban sustainability. Case studies on Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra) will assess where interventions can be most practically, realistically and effectively implemented.  
The PhD will be jointly supervised by Prof. Manfred Lenzen from ISA at the University of Sydney and Associate Prof. Tommy Wiedmann at University of New South Wales Sydney.


Professor Manfred Lenzen.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The 3-year research is designed to address current gaps in sustainability science by improving sustainability assessment methodology, quantifying environmental and social footprints of Australian and global cites and benchmarking performance against downscaled metrics of absolute sustainability and by delivering evidence-based policy recommendations for sustainable urban development. 
The PhD research is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project. The researcher will make use of the Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory, a collaborative e-research platform for environmental input-output analysis. The candidate will be involved in the construction of city-nested MRIO databases, the compilation and benchmarking of SJS indicators and the calculations in city case studies.
Typical questions that will be addressed include, for example: What are the main drivers of city footprints and how does changing consumption and trade patterns change city footprints? How can cities use the results and mitigate impacts (e.g. through supply chain initiatives, sourcing low-impact products for food, electricity, materials etc.)? What would be required to get the cities to levels of absolute sustainability? What role does the rebound effect play?

Additional information

Selection CriteriaApplications are invited from candidates with a strong tertiary qualification in sustainability assessment, industrial ecology, ecological economics, environmental science, environmental/sustainable engineering or related fields. Applicants are expected to have 1st class Honours (or equivalent ranking) in a suitable undergraduate degree and a top-ten grade in relevant postgraduate degrees. Candidates with a working background in environmental footprinting, input-output analysis, life cycle assessment, urban metabolism, integrated assessment modelling or similar fields are particularly encouraged to apply. Candidates with a background in applied mathematics, computer science and engineering, or who developed good data and computational skills and are interested in sustainability, will also be considered. 
Essential Skills The candidate should have a sound technical ability and experience working with quantitative data as evidenced by their prior work. Excellent data management, numerical and programming skills are essential. The candidate would ideally have some prior experience in the development or application of quantitative sustainability assessment methods, database management and visualisation. Experience in environmentally extended input-output analysis and statistical analysis is desirable. The candidate should have an emerging track record of academic publications in the field. Background knowledge in urban sustainability is advantageous. The candidate should have excellent written and oral communication skills, an ability to manage research projects, and possess or show willingness to develop good working relationships with researchers in the field. The researcher will work independently and in collaboration with other researchers from UNSW and the University of Sydney. On-time delivery of project tasks, reporting and other deliverables of research, as well as proficiency in English, are essential. 
Scholarship Requirements The research position requires the candidate to hold or obtain a national (e.g. RTP) or international scholarship (e.g. Chinese Scholarship Council) that covers living costs and tuition fees. As a general rule, applicants have to score the equivalent of an Honours 1 degree (H1E). Applications for scholarships can be lodged after the candidate has been selected through the process outlined here. 
Please note HDR Inherent Requirements.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2619

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