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 by Matthew Wright and Adrian Whitehead under the guidance of Philip Sutton. The group came into being as the science was showing that there was already too much carbon in the atmosphere and no other organisations were addressing it. The group coordinates research and education into the need to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to 'zero and below' by implementing structural changes to stationary energy, transport, buildings, land use, industrial processes and replacing fossil fuel export revenue.

BZE released 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 is 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 addresses the common perception that renewables cannot replace fossil fuels, either due to immaturity of the technology or due to cost concerns. The group invites pro-bono contributions from engineers, scientists, and industry specialists to work on their projects similar to the way open source software is developed.

In August 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions published and launched Laggard to Leader: How Australia can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity and Repowering Port Augusta

In August 2013, Beyond Zero Emissions launched and published the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, outlining how energy use in Australia's buildings can be halved in 10 years.

Beyond Zero Emissions has since published the Zero Carbon Australia High Speed Rail Report in April 2014, the Zero Carbon Australia Land Use (Agriculture and Forestry) Report in October 2014, Australia's Fossil Economy in February 2015, Zero Carbon Australia Renewable Energy Superpower Report in October 2015, The Energy Freedom Home September 2015 and the Zero Carbon Australia Electric Vehicles Report in August 2016.


Beyond Zero Emissions subscribes to the view that atmospheric concentrations of 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 believe that this will be achieved using methods such as large-scale implementation of concentrated solar power plants.

The group advocates reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to 'zero and below' by implementing structural changes to stationary energy, energy exports, industrial processes, transport, agriculture, forestry, housing and construction and by implementing energy efficiency measures.

Zero Carbon Australia[edit]

Zero Carbon Australia is a project to develop a blueprint for the transition to a decarbonised Australian economy within a decade. The project consists of six research plans, with each plan using existing technology to find a solution for different high-emitting sectors of the Australian economy. The sectors are Stationary Energy, Transport, Buildings, Industrial Processes, Land Use, and (Energy) Exports.

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan 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) 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, like the assumption that energy use will fall a significant amount by 2020 and the assumption that all domestic airplanes, all domestic shipping and a large portion of passenger and freight road miles will shift to electric railways.[3]

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan outlines a pathway to zero emission buildings in Australia. The plan details how this can be achieved through a planned energy efficiency retrofit of existing building stock, onsite renewable energy generation, and electrifying current gas appliances. The plan does not aim to make individual buildings energy self-sufficient (i.e. zero net energy consumption), as each building is planned to be connected to a 100% renewable energy grid as outlined in the ZCA Stationary Energy Plan. However, it identifies the maximum feasible contribution from distributed onsite electricity generation using widespread rooftop solar photovoltaic panels plus small wind turbines.

Zero Carbon Australia High Speed Rail Report 2014 is Beyond Zero Emissions' plan to electrify long distance travel by means of high speed rail. The rail when completed would replace the majority of domestic flights along the east coast's three busiest flight paths - Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane, cutting Australia's east coast transport emissions 28% by 2030.

Zero Carbon Australia Land Use (Agriculture and Forestry) Report 2014 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 CO2e. The plan identifies several simple changes that together would achieve net zero emissions within 10 years : 1. Restoring 13% - ie 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.

Zero Carbon Australia Renewable Energy Superpower Report 2015 is Beyond Zero Emissions' estimate of the size and value of Australia's economically demonstrated solar photovoltaic and wind resources situated within 10km of the existing electricity grid. The size of the resource is 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 assesses 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 Electric Vehicles Report 2016 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, Industrial Processes 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 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 2016 Beyond Zero Emission became a signatory to the campaign for a Declaration of a Climate Emergency by the Australian Parliament and in the lead up to the UN COP22 at Marrakech Morocco officially became a partner in the Global 100% Renewable Energy Campaign.

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