In profile: Rachel Marini Ravagnani, PhD student
Studies have indicated that by the year 2050, demand for water and food will increase by over 50%, while global demand for energy will almost double. At the same time, climate change science suggests that to protect our planet for future generations, we must significantly reduce carbon emissions—and that a move to renewable energy will play a key role in this reduction.
Investment in renewable energy certainly has its advantages. In addition to producing minimal carbon emissions, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric energy can provide countries, communities and even individuals with better energy security and access. Furthermore, a decrease in dependence on coal and natural gas will likely offer major public health benefits due to reduced pollution; while job creation will yield socio-economic benefits as renewables require more human labour.
What is yet to be determined, however, is the extent to which the push to renewable energy may negatively impact the water and food sectors, which are already under mounting strain. In some cases, the construction and implementation of renewable energies has the potential to cause the loss and degradation of water, land and biodiversity, and displacement of communities.
Much is expected from renewable energies, however, a number of issues relating to the impacts of deployment of renewable energy remain open
Rachel Marini Ravangani, Phd student
Rachel Marini Ravagnani is studying this topic through her PhD with the Faculty of Law at UNSW Sydney. Rachel has a Bachelor of Law and a Masters in Energy Systems Planning, and is passionate about exploring the correlation between international law and renewable energy sources.
“The ultimate objective of my thesis is to identify obstacles and pathways for the implementation of renewable energy so that climate change objectives are met without compromising humans’ water and food security,” says Rachel.
Rachel says that while climate change, renewable energy and environmental law are hot topics today, her interest has stemmed from the accelerated transition to renewable energy sources.
“Much is expected from renewable energies, however, a number of issues relating to the impacts of deployment of renewable energy remain open,” says Rachel.
“My intention is to provide scientific knowledge to support the development of public policies that promote the sustainable use of renewable energy without causing damage to water and food security.”
Rachel hopes that her research will improve climate change law to allow for international regulations on the use of renewable energies. She also anticipates that her in-depth analysis of possible impacts of renewable energy on water and food may catalyse the development of technologies to mitigate or prevent such effects.
Rachel is being supervised by A/Prof Cameron Holley and Prof Rosemary Rayfuse and speaks very highly of her experience at UNSW.
“I have been at UNSW for a year and I can say that I have made the right choice - the university offers excellent infrastructure for researchers, an environment conducive to studies and committed supervisors who give me all the support I need to develop my research.”“I have always wanted to have the experience of studying at a University abroad,” said Rachel, who was born and raised in Brazil.
Rachel acknowledges that she is working on a highly relevant and dynamic topic which has the potential to impact several sectors of society. Her passion for the topic means that following the completion of her PhD, she will continue to study the role of international law in the expansion of the use of renewable energies.
 IRENA (2015), ‘Renewable Energy in the Water, Energy & Food Nexus