Environmental Studies and Sustainability

We live in times of drastic environmental changes triggered by human actions.

These changes have the potential to have a profound effect on the future of our species and countless others.

Our research group examines a wide variety of different policies and management tools that seek to mitigate the impact that human actions have on the environment. This research centres on three main themes: climate change mitigation, urban environmental sustainability, and human dimensions of biodiversity conservation.

Climate Change Mitigation and Urban Sustainability

Human-driven climate change is starting to disrupt our planet, and our research focuses on how to reduce that disruption, through mitigation policies. (For those more interested in adaptation, see the Climate Change Research Institute.)

We work with the Victoria School of Government and other universities, especially as part of the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities, on climate change mitigation research.Ralph Chapman portrait

Associate Professor Ralph Chapman studies New Zealand government policy responses to the climate change threat, and the overall effect of policies on our emissions trajectory. An issue of particular interest is whether New Zealand is doing enough to make our cities more sustainable, through ‘greening’ our transport system and exploiting renewable energy. Ralph published a text in August 2015 on climate change policy, called ‘Time of Useful Consciousness’. Ralph also works with postgraduate students on urban policy, transport, electric vehicles, renewable electricity generation and storage, household energy use, and perceptions of the climate ‘problem’.


Wokje Abrahamse portrait

Dr Wokje Abrahamse researches human behaviour, specifically social influence and spill-over in environmentally friendly behaviours. The spill-over effect refers to the observation that engagement in one environmentally-friendly behaviour (recycling for example) may lead to other, similar, changes (composing food waste for example). Wokje is also a member of the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities and is undertaking research on active travel behaviours.


Becky Kiddle

Dr Becky Kiddle researches urban design, place identity, Māori notions of place, public space design, learning space design and the involvement of young people in built environment decision-making processes. Her current research is seeking to understand the role of Maori values and identity in New Zealand’s urban spaces.