Beyond Zero Emissions

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Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is an Australia-based, not-for-profit climate change solutions think-tank.

BZE was founded in 2006 by Matthew Wright and Adrian Whitehead under the guidance of Philip Sutton. The group coordinates research and education into how the Australian economy can rapidly reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to 'zero and below' by implementing changes to stationary energy, transport, buildings, agricultural activities, industrial processes and fossil fuel export sectors.

In 2010 BZE released its first publication, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan (Wright, Hearps 2010) a research collaboration between Beyond Zero Emissions and the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute. The aim of the report was to provide a detailed, fully realisable, fully costed 10-year plan to replace all stationary energy needs with 100% renewable energy sources, using only current proven technologies and engineering. This report addressed the common perception that renewables cannot replace fossil fuels, either due to immaturity of the technology or due to cost concerns. The group invited pro-bono contributions from engineers, scientists, and industry specialists to work on this and all subsequent projects, similar to the way open source software is developed.

Since 2006 Beyond Zero Emissions has released the following publications:

  • Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan (2010),
  • Repowering Port Augusta (2012),
  • Health and Social Harms of Mining in Local Communities: Spotlight on the Hunter Region report ( 2012).
  • Laggard to Leader: How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity (2012)
  • Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan (2013),
  • Zero Carbon Australia High Speed Rail (2014)
  • Fossil Economy (2014),
  • Zero Carbon Australia Land Use - Agriculture and Forestry (2014),
  • Carbon Capture and Storage Report (2014),
  • Carbon Crisis: Systemic Risk of Carbon Emission Liabilities report (2015)
  • Zero Carbon Australia Renewable Energy Superpower (2015),
  • Zero Carbon Australia Electric Vehicles (2016),

A full list of Beyond Zero Emissions publications is also available with links to free pdf downloads at the BZE website.


Beyond Zero Emissions subscribes to the view that atmospheric concentrations of climate pollutants causing both near term and long term climate forcing - for example methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide - are at a dangerous level and growing and that even when the goal of a zero emissions global economy has been achieved, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will still need to be reduced to a safe threshold.

They state that given 350 ppm was the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at which the disintegration of the Arctic sea-ice began and a level somewhere between 280 ppm (pre-industrial level) and 325 ppm is considered to be a safe threshold, reducing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to this threshold is desirable and necessary. They propose that this can be economically achieved by deploying 100% renewable energy - including off-river pumped hydro, solar pv, wind and concentrated solar power plants - buildings energy upgrades and electrification of transport and heating along with the implementation of sequestration, ceasing deforestation for grazing and improved animal agriculture herd and crop management.

Zero Carbon Australia[edit]

Zero Carbon Australia is a research project to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the transition to a decarbonised Australian economy which the group argues is fully costed and achievable within a decade.

The project consists of six research plans, with each plan using existing technology to find a costed solution for different high-emitting sectors of the Australian economy. The sectors are presented below in approximate decreasing order of contribution to climate-damaging emissions associated with the Australian national economy ie : Energy Exports, Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry, Stationary Energy, Buildings, Transport, and Industry (processes and energy)

Zero Carbon Australia Renewable Energy Superpower report 2015[edit]

The RESP report is Beyond Zero Emissions' estimate of the size and value of Australia's economically demonstrated solar photovoltaic and wind resources situated within 10 km of the existing electricity grid. The size of the resource was found to be much larger than non-renewable energy resources, and ranks Australia in the global top 3 for quality – and potential cheapness – of its renewable energy. The report assessed the state of play in 2015 of the worlds clean energy transition and its energy-intensive sectors and then suggests that if it were paired with energy intensive ore and resource-processing industries, potentially worth billions to the economy, Australia's renewable energy resource would position Australia as a renewable energy superpower with a strong sustained and sustainable competitive advantage.

Zero Carbon Australia Land Use – Agriculture and Forestry discussion paper 2014[edit]

The Land Use report is Beyond Zero Emissions' plan to slash GHG emissions in the land use sector by analysing each component of Australia's agriculture, herding and forestry activities which together emit more than 50% of Australia's CO2-e when calculated as GWP20 rather than GWP100. The plan identifies several simple changes that together would achieve net zero emissions within 10 years : 1. Restoring 13% – i.e. 55 million hectares – of Australia’s most exposed cleared land at an opportunity cost of approximately $5.3 billion per year, adding to income diversity for regional businesses. 2. Cease clearing and re-clearing land for agriculture. 3. Reduce excessive emissions from beef through improved management across the industry. 4. Sequester 7,500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide through biological recovery of the eucalyptus forests of south-east Australia. In addition, the plan finds that expanding revegetation activities beyond 13% would result in net carbon capture.

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan[edit]

The SEP is Beyond Zero Emissions' plan to both expand and decarbonise Australia's stationary energy electricity use in 10 years,[1] with the goal of achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions from electricity (stationary energy sector) industry and transport.

This report won the 2010 Mercedes-Benz Banksia award for Australian Environmental research.[2] However criticism of some of the plan's aspects exists, for example questioning the assumption that energy demand will fall as much as expected with the process of electrification and that electricity demand will rise 40% to 325TWh pa by 2020. Critics also question the assumption that all domestic passenger and freight travel can also shift to electric in that timeframe.[3]

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan[edit]

The BP report outlines a pathway to zero emission buildings of every type in all parts of Australia. The plan details how this can be achieved through a planned energy efficiency retrofit of existing building stock, onsite renewable energy generation, and switching from current gas appliances to efficient electric appliances, with each building planned to be connected to a 100% renewable energy grid as outlined in the ZCA Stationary Energy Plan. The follow-on book The Energy Freedom Home shows the 9 steps required to upgrade individual residential buildings to use half as much energy and even to become energy self-sufficient (i.e. zero net energy consumption), from onsite electricity generation. The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan estimates that Australian homes will be using widespread rooftop solar photovoltaic panels totalling around 31 GW of installed capacity by the end of the transition period.

Zero Carbon Australia High Speed Rail report 2014[edit]

The HSR report is Beyond Zero Emissions' plan to electrify long-distance travel by means of high-speed rail. The rail when completed could replace the majority of domestic flights along the east coast's three busiest flight paths – Sydney–Melbourne, Sydney–Brisbane and Melbourne–Brisbane. The report presents a detailed business case for the new transport infrastructure to be fully funded privately while at the same time cutting Australia's east coast transport emissions by at least 28% by 2030. The report is a part of the yet-to-be-completed 4-part Zero Carbon Australia Transport Plan.

Zero Carbon Australia Electric Vehicles Report 2016[edit]

This is Beyond Zero Emissions' modelled costings to shift all of Australia's urban cars and buses to 100% battery electric vehicles (BEVs) powered by 100% renewable energy, cutting at least 6% of Australia's GHG emissions and fully a half of the nations transport emissions. Allowing for a 10-year transition costed over 20 years and assuming that battery prices drop in line with current trends the cost to the economy of a full transition was found to be the same as business-as-usual.

All BZE publications are available as PDFs free of charge.

Research for the final sectoral report in the Zero Carbon Australia series, Zero Carbon Industry, has now commenced and will be published in stages during 2017.

In 2015 Beyond Zero Emissions commenced collaborations with municipalities and businesses to provide technical support and knowledge partner services based on the Zero Carbon Australia plans. These services are offered under two initiatives : the Zero Carbon Communities and the Energy Freedom Home programs.

In January 2016 Beyond Zero Emissions was ranked by the Lauder Institute's Think Tanks and Civil Society's Program as one of the world top independent think thanks, and one of the top 10 to watch in 2016. In January 2017 Beyond Zero Emissions was ranked 52nd by the Lauder Institute's Think Tanks and Civil Society's Program along with the worlds 100 best independent think thanks, and a top 20 think tank to watch in 2017.


In addition to its collaborative research and technical support programs, the group gives presentations nationally, runs a public discussion group and has two weekly radio shows on 3CR interviewing celebrity guests on climate science and global warming solutions. Interviewees have included: James Hansen, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Wieslaw Maslowski, Ken Caldeira, David Karoly, David Mills, Richard Heinberg, Arnold Goldman, S. David Freeman, Bill McKibben and Tim Flannery.[4]

In May 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions started campaigning for a concentrated solar thermal power plant in Southern Australia. The opportunity was identified due to projected closure of coal plants Playford B and Northern in Port Augusta. These power plants are now closed and produced 30% of South Australia’s energy and employed around 400 people.

The Rudd Government received submissions from Beyond Zero Emissions as a part of the consultation process for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - Green Paper,[5] and also for Australia 2020.[6]

Beyond Zero Emissions takes part in the yearly Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne and many local events and conferences around Australia. They have promoted and costed a detailed plan for the construction of a high-speed rail link between Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, which could be powered by renewable energy sources and complete journeys in roughly the same time as domestic flights.[7]

In 2015 Beyond Zero Emissions presented findings related to Zero Carbon Australia research to Sri Lankan parliamentarians and the Sri Lankan Chamber of Commerce and at civil society at events at the COP21 in Paris and in 2016 became a signatory to the campaign for a Declaration of a Climate Emergency by the Australian Parliament In the lead up to the UN COP22 at Marrakech Morocco officially became a partner in the Global 100% Renewable Energy Campaign.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IEA Praises Australian Renewable Energy Blueprint". Energy Matters. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "2010 Mercedes-Benz Banksia award for Australian Environmental research". Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Beyond Zero Radio". Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  5. ^ "Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper" (PDF). Department of Climate Change (Australia). 10 October 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Submission 7195 :". Australia 2020 Summit. Retrieved 13 March 2009.  External link in |title= (help)[dead link]
  7. ^ "Greens push fast rail". Herald Sun. 23 May 2007. 

External links[edit]