A two-year collaboration has begun to analyse how Australia can achieve a net zero economy by 2050.

The Net Zero Australia (NZAu) project is a collaborative partnership between the University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, Princeton University and management consultancy Nous Group.

It is based on Princeton University’s Net-Zero America study, which has attracted widespread interest from the United States government, businesses, non-governmental organisations and media (including the Economist and New York Times) since its release in late 2020. A notable feature of the Net-Zero America study was its highly detailed analysis of five distinct pathways to net-zero emissions by 2050.

NZAu will undertake the same, granular analysis of scenarios which range from 100% renewable energy to one which includes significant carbon capture and storage. It will assess the progressive impacts of each scenario on emissions, infrastructure, costs, employment, land use, air pollution and other important outcomes at a high level of geographic resolution. The project will also assess how Australia might export clean energy and low emission products, and thus contribute to the global decarbonisation task.

The NZAu study will not recommend a preferred pathway or critique current policies; instead, it will present the costs and benefits of each scenario. Like the U.S. study, all methods, data and results will be made publicly available.

NZAu is sponsored by Worley, Dow, Future Energy Exports Cooperative Research Centre (FEnEx CRC), APA Group and the Minderoo Foundation. The project is being overseen by a Steering Committee chaired by former Chief Scientist of Australia, Emeritus Professor Robin Batterham. An Advisory Group has also been established which includes nominees from the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Climate Council, Energy Consumers Australia, the Ethics Centre, the National Farmers Federation, St Vincent de Paul, three independent members, and nominees from each of the sponsoring organisations.

The project will run until 2023 and will release interim findings throughout this period.