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Rapid decarbonisation can steer Australia to Net Zero before 2050

CSIRO News Release

A new report by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, shows existing technologies will enable Australia to halve emissions by 2030 from 2020 levels, under a rapid decarbonisation scenario led by a renewable electricity sector.

The report, Pathways to Net Zero Emissions – An Australian Perspective on Rapid Decarbonisation, emphasises that an accelerated transition is needed across the economy if we are to meet the goal of net zero before 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5°C. CSIRO’s Rapid Decarbonisation scenario projects key milestones in 10-year timesteps that would set Australia on a path to net zero by 2050.

Using existing technologies, Australia can reduce emissions by 52 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030. Beyond that, however, technologies currently in early development would need to be in widespread commercial use into the 2030s and 2040s, particularly to address hard-to-abate sectors.

The investment costs will be substantial, and the role of the finance sector will be critical.

CSIRO’s Executive Director – Environment, Energy and Resources Dr Peter Mayfield said there were immense opportunities for Australia to grow new and existing industries and provide essential innovation to decarbonise the world.

“Pressure is mounting for business to speed up its efforts towards net zero and lead the way for the rest of the country. How to move faster to deliver a cleaner, sustainable and strong economy is the question on every business leader’s mind,” he said.

“This work will help business find a rapid and achievable pathway to net zero appropriate to their sector – guiding investment to mitigate climate change, reinventing industries of old, and creating new jobs in emerging industries.”

CSIRO researchers applied to an Australian context the International Energy Agency’s global analysis of the technology, energy and investment needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

It’s the first time that IEA’s detailed international modelling has been coupled with CSIRO’s detailed knowledge of Australian industry to inform decarbonisation projections of the economy in this way.

Modelling focused on the high emissions sectors of the economy to develop transition pathways across energy, transport, building and heavy industry, including steel, cement and aluminium; alongside agriculture, the largest energy emitters in the economy.

The report’s Rapid Decarbonisation scenario projects the national effort will be led by a renewable electricity sector:

  • Renewable sources would need to triple by 2030 to reach 90 per cent of the electricity generation mix. To achieve this, almost all new capacity installed in the next decade would need to come from wind, solar and hydropower supported by increased storage capacity.
  • Rapid electricity sector decarbonisation is projected to drive down emissions from energy use in housing and commercial buildings, followed by electrification in mining, and later in transport. This highlights the need for more renewable electricity sooner.
  • By 2040, 73% of cars and light commercial vehicles on the road are electric powered. Decarbonisation of long distance and heavy transport accelerates through 2030-2040.

To lag behind international decarbonisation would be a competitive disadvantage for Australia as other nations increasingly adopt low emissions technologies and trade barriers towards high emitting nations.

Funded by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the report will support evidence-based decision making for CBA, its clients and the banking and business sectors more broadly.

Download the Pathways to Net Zero Emissions – An Australian Perspective on Rapid Decarbonisation report.

See fact sheets below for a sector-by-sector summary of report findings.


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  1. Pingback: Rapid decarbonisation can steer Australia to Net Zero before 2050 - News, Blogs & Articles | DayBreakBulletin | Latest headlines, blogs and articles

  2. Andrew Smith

    Evidence already that it could work more quickly aka EU nations etc., but Australia puts the brakes on faster transition from carbon?

    See Burn-Murdoch in FT Data Points (23 Sep ’22) including an excellent graphical comparison between nations:

    ‘Economics may take us to net zero all on its own. The plummeting cost of low-carbon energy has already allowed many countries to decouple economic growth from emissions’


  3. Cool Pete

    Andrew, look no further than the nong Lachlan Murdoch appointed to the Fox Board. Tone the Botty. A climate change denying blockhead who sounds deranged when he talks of it. Another nong claimed that climate change would do more good than harm as it would help crops grow. Hello, crops won’t grow on a hotter, drier planet.

  4. Andrew Smith

    Cool Pete: If he is on the board it maybe more of a financial reward for services and support rendered? Or keeping the old fossils going for as long as possible…. see the Koch ‘Freedom Rallies’, supported by Murdoch media, like climate, promoting Covid science denial, avoidance of regulation of centrist government, keeping fuel consumption up and encourage division on the street and in society.

    Fox has another big legal issue or hurdle coming in the US….

  5. Ken Fabian

    They shit on renewables and laughed but smart people made fertiliser and here we are – not one new coal plant in the pipeline and I think only one new gas – Morrison’s home cooked Kurri-Kurri, his raised finger to renewables. Renewables are now the only sort being built. Just 7 years ago the first ever Big Battery was switched on whilst being ridiculed. Now we have a score of big and bigger batteries in place or in construction.

    We’ll see how some pumped hydro projects pan out but counting on batteries being forever too expensive looks like a poor bet to me given the stakes and given how much dedicated R&D is chasing the next best ever batteries in all categories. With the materials sciences never so advanced or so well fitted to the task. With tech device makers, cordless tool makers, vehicle makers – corporate giants – having keen interest. Besides the need for achieving zero emissions to bring a new stability to global climate.

  6. andyfiftysix

    its ironic that we voted for the liberals for so long. The ten tears wasted with their stupid denial of the science. But in the background australians in mass voted with their wallets and installed solar. This has led to the unstable situation we have now where we lag development of new power to cover demand.
    As I always say with technology, we can guide it to suite our needs or it will lead us by the nose.

    Andrew smith…”‘Economics may take us to net zero all on its own. The plummeting cost of low-carbon energy has already allowed many countries to decouple economic growth from emissions’” . The one true prophet of our times is Tony Seba, hahahaha

  7. Ken Fabian

    ”Economics may take us to net zero all on its own. The plummeting cost of low-carbon energy has already allowed many countries to decouple economic growth from emissions”

    Maybe the most of decarbonising or better might come just from the unexpected cost competitiveness of renewables, but the last bits get harder and will almost certainly require strong and unwavering commitment, ie levels of commitment we are yet to see from the LibNatLab triopoly that dominates Australian politics .

    If anything the “grown ups” are notable for their strong commitment to avoiding strong climate commitments. The LNP side are presently focused on preventing or delaying the things that will make renewables reliable, like major transmission lines, offshore wind, batteries and seem to have fallen for their own BS and imagine they can wedge renewables by wedging green politics on the environmental harms of renewables, like 200,000 tons a year (globally) of old wind turbine blade compares to 40 billion tons a year of CO2. Like environmentalists can be induced to reject renewables or more likely, shown to be hypocritical or are expected to be too hard headed to compromise.

    Like the whole climate and renewables issue pivots on what political environmentalism says or does. ie like the widespread support for climate commitments and renewables would collapse if environmentalists didn’t promote it. Like the vast majority who take the problem seriously, who aren’t aligned with environmentalism, would stop caring about it if green voices get silenced or discredited.

    Seems like those in Labor who appear to take climate seriously – or at least accept that it is true – may be hoping it goes that way, that even with equal or better government support for growing fossil fuels as for growing renewables that renewables will win purely on market based economic and we will achieve low emissions after all – but it won’t be their fault.

    Yet they will be wanting to take full credit for the renewables in a style reminiscent of Abbott and Morrison “more renewables under the LNP than ever before”.

    We got renewables as an empty gesture with no real expectations it would WORK – energy experts (that run coal fired power stations) assured them they never would. But mainstream politics including Labor was pleased to reinforce perceptions of the issue being driven by anti-nuclear environmental activism and not by the top level expert advice and the issue could be kicked down the road. Mustering opposition to irritating activists and fringe politics has been easy but mustering opposition to the world’s leading science agencies? No. Which is how it manage to stay on the agenda in spite of how hard they tried to dodge and evade and make it about green extremism.

    For the near future THIS is what is deciding our energy choices – (2008 to 2019) –

  8. frances

    The Nats have not exactly been sitting on their hands, with Fed Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie (gastro guy) promoting nukes to the hilt whilst simultaneously opposing offshore wind farms, ad nauseam.


    And, it follows, also a huge fan of the Voice (not): https://davidgillespie.com.au/new-page-4

    When did representing electorates shift to manipulating electorates, and at whose behest?

  9. Canguro

    frances, this country isn’t exactly a best practice example of getting things done, and if it were to ever commit to the construction of nuclear power plants it’s to be expected that it would take a couple of generations of construction workers just to lay the foundations and a couple more for the superstructure; all things being equal… which of course they aren’t and any changes in government at federal or state levels could throw spanners into the works, given the deep community dissatisfaction that would inevitably accompany such a decision.

    For crying out loud, we can’t even build an effective set of road connections on the western edge of the city of Sydney, despite years of construction and billions of dollars tossed at the works.

    Given my ‘We’ll all be ruined, said Hanrahan’ default outlook on matters global, I’d expect the planet would be well & truly cooked by the time operators got to the point of turning on the switches, with humanity experiencing a Bladerunner type of existence.

    I know nothing about Gillespie but it seems he’s deeply illusioned on this matter.

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