Net Zero Australia

Finding collaborative pathways to a carbon-neutral future


sun shining through a tree in Australian forest

Jun 26, 2021 | Case Study

A better future is a low-carbon future. Accelerating progress toward net-zero emissions and tackling complex climate challenges requires previously unimagined collaboration and coordination across industries, nations and even continents.

A recent example is our sponsorship of a two-year collaboration to analyze how Australia can achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. The Net Zero Australia (NZAu) project is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, Princeton University and the management consultancy Nous Group. The sponsorship is part of our wider effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change.


The Problem

The next decade will be decisive for climate action. To avoid the worst climate impacts, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will need to reach net-zero by 2050. Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit warming well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), ideally to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

Achieving a “net-zero emissions” economy means emitting into the atmosphere no more GHGs than are permanently removed from it through technology-driven or enhanced natural processes. This will require shifts in policy and major investments in infrastructure. Having more granularity on the infrastructure and investment needed, as well as how jobs and health will be affected, can aid decision-makers.

The Solution

Similar to Princeton University’s Net-Zero America study, the NZAu project will undertake a highly detailed analysis of five distinct national pathways to net-zero emissions by 2050. The scenarios range from 100% renewable energy to one that includes significant carbon capture and storage. The study will not recommend a preferred path or weigh in on current policies. Instead, it will assess the impact of each scenario on emissions, infrastructure, costs, employment, land use, air quality and other outcomes. In addition, the NZAu project will assess how Australia might export clean energy and low-emission products, which can support global decarbonization and potentially contribute to Australia’s economy. The project will run until 2023 and will release interim findings throughout this period.

Dow’s sponsorship of this groundbreaking study in Australia builds on our collaboration with the University of Queensland (UQ) to promote sustainable practices. Established with a $10 million donation from Dow, UQ opened the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation in 2014. The Centre has become a hub of excellence for collaborative research across diverse fields, including climate change. Promising research breakthroughs include a new process for iron production that eliminates CO2 emissions and the development of fertilizers that decrease environmental degradation and impacts on such areas as the Great Barrier Reef.


The reality is that any country will find it difficult to meet a net-zero commitment without transforming the economies and industries within it. It requires partnerships across sectors to succeed. By working together, academia, business and government can identify viable, sustainable pathways and further address the technological needs to build the low-carbon economies we all need to prosper in the future.