The Morrison government is set to finally announce a net zero commitment in 2050. Here’s a to-do list for each sector

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally struck a deal with the Nationals and is expected to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the Glasgow climate conference. So what must Australia do to achieve this goal?

ClimateWorks worked with CSIRO to assess pathways that each sector of the Australian economy can take to reduce emissions, and has identified a sector-by-sector “to do” list.

The electricity sector should be at the center of attention, given Australia’s renewable resources and the role that zero-emission electricity can play in all sectors. Great improvements are also needed in transport, industry, agriculture and buildings.

However, it is important to note that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is not in line with the most ambitious end of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to 1.5 ℃. If Australia is to act on this goal, it must achieve zero net emissions by 2035. That would mean rolling out the measures outlined below with even greater urgency.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters.
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Clean up the electricity sector

The rapid deployment of renewables means that the electricity sector is changing rapidly. But it’s still accounts for about a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions from the electricity sector must be brought down to near zero by the mid-2030s if Australia is to achieve a net zero emission target by 2050. This would help reduce emissions not only from the sector. energy, but in other energy intensive sectors such as buildings, transport and industry.

Achieving nationwide net zero emissions by 2050 means virtually doubling the amount of electricity produced by our grids over the next two decades, to enable electrification in other sectors.

Australia could do more to export its extraordinary wind and solar resources to the world – by producing green hydrogen and ammonia, and maybe even by submarine cable. This could see coal and gas exports replaced by green exports hydrogen.

Renewable energy could also be used to power energy-intensive processes such as aluminum smelting and the production of “green steel” for use at home and abroad.



Read more: Barnaby Joyce refused to support doubling Australia’s emissions reduction targets for 2030 – but we could do it so easily and cheaply


Much work is already underway to drive Australia’s energy transition. For example, states are investing in the new renewable generation and storage needed to replace Australia’s aging coal generators.

Australian energy market organizations are planning new transmission lines, taking action to manage demand management for electricity, and focusing renewable energy projects in what are known as’ renewable energy zones. “.

Improving energy efficiency in all sectors ensures that renewable energy resources are not wasted, making the transition cheaper.

And Australia’s electricity sector should be subject to a clear zero emissions target, to make things clear for investors and policymakers.

A net zero target implies that certain emissions are allowed to continue, as long as they are offset elsewhere. But these offsets should be reserved for other sectors where a ready-made solution to reducing emissions is not yet available.

Australia’s energy market needs a clear zero emissions target.
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Significant reductions in industry emissions

Industry emissions account for around a third of Australia’s total and come from non-electric sources. Industry share of electricity consumption accounted for an additional 15%.

Australia’s industrial sector is expected to benefit from a net zero global economy. We have global resources of critical minerals obligatory for renewable energy technologies, in particular copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt.

Our work shows that industry emissions could be halved from 2005 levels over the next decade, using existing technologies to achieve significant reductions, through:

  • greater energy efficiency

  • renewable electricity supply for current electricity use

  • the transition to zero-emission energy, in particular through the electrification of industrial processes and the use of green hydrogen

  • renewable raw materials (the raw materials for manufacturing) and carbon capture and storage (where emissions such as CO₂ are captured and stored).

It requires investment. Net zero plans for sectors and regions would help government, businesses and investors understand what is needed when and direct funding accordingly. Such roadmaps could be produced by governments or industry – or ideally both.

And existing public investments can be better coordinated through regional industry clusters.

Steel workers at the factory
Australia has the potential to produce “green steel”.
Daniel Munoz / AAP

Switch to clean and efficient transport

Transport emissions are around a fifth of the national total. We can act now to move to clean and efficient transportation, while reducing pollution and improving health. Examples include:

  • electrification of cars and light vehicles

  • greater use of public and active transport

  • greater use of zero emission fuels (such as biofuels, renewable hydrogen and ammonia) for heavy transport.

At the end of this decade, our analysis revealed that we could see:

  • electric vehicles accounting for up to three quarters of new car sales and more than a quarter of the total fleet – against Less than 1% new sales last year.

  • electric and fuel cell vehicles account for the majority of new truck sales and nearly a quarter of the total truck fleet. Currently, only a handful of companies are exploring their use.

So what does it take to make it happen? To begin with, Australia should join 80% global automotive market and introduce the Euro 6 vehicle emissions standard.

Governments should also provide additional financial support for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the purchase of fleets for business and government.

Governments could provide additional support for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
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Reduce building emissions

The buildings are at the origin of about a fifth of Australia’s emissions when electricity consumption is taken into account.

The sector can reduce its emissions by almost three quarters by 2030 by:

In this scenario, residential buildings would consume half the energy and commercial buildings a quarter less. This saves money for the occupants and improves comfort and health.

These changes could be motivated by greater ambition in building codes for new buildings and renovations, energy efficiency standards for rentals and renovations for social housing.



Read more: Better building standards are good for the climate, your health and your wallet. Here’s what the National Building Code could improve


timber frame house under construction
The changes could be motivated by greater ambition in building codes.
Mick Tsikas / AAP

Agriculture and land

Agricultural emissions represent about 13% of the total, but only 8% if land use (such as forestry) and land use changes are included. This is because the land sector is different from others. While agriculture itself creates emissions, many land-based activities can store carbon by improving vegetation choices, soil management, tree planting and revegetation.

Our work not only shows that agriculture can cut emissions in half, but carbon sequestration can also increase to about four times current levels. Actions include:

  • precision farming (using large data sets to improve farm efficiency)

  • wider use of chemicals that reduce nitrogen loss in the soil, thus reducing the need to use fertilizers

  • reduce livestock methane through animal husbandry, manure management and feed additives such as red algae

  • plant more trees on farms, better manage vegetation, increase soil carbon and other nature-based solutions.

Governments have a big role here. Funding is needed for agricultural research and deployment focused on the net zero goal. Stewardship payments to land managers can encourage them to conserve biodiversity on their lands. And existing support for carbon agriculture should be increased, for example through the Emissions reduction fund.



Read more: Yes, Australia can beat its 2030 emissions target. But the Morrison government has barely lifted a finger



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