Australia’s net zero trajectory – exploring the economic implications

Event: Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics (AARES) 2024 Pre-Conference Workshop
Date: Tuesday 6 February 2024
Location: Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU

Conveners: Stuart Whitten, CSIRO; Rebecca Cassells, The Treasury, Australian Government; and Professor Frank Jotzo, The Australian National University

Workshop overview

There is no greater challenge for the applied economics profession in Australia than supporting the transition to net zero emissions. The structure of Australia’s economy and especially our electricity sector, our geographic context which influences both our energy footprint and future options, and the legacies of decisions past and present all influence the paths Australia has available to support the two aspects of a net zero economy – to decarbonize the economy on the one hand, and to develop a negative emissions economy on the other. This workshop focused on the overall challenge of achieving net zero for Australia; with focused sessions on the electricity sector, and regional challenges and opportunities facing the nation. 

Image: Left to right (Frank Jotzo, Anna Skarbek, Jee Karunarathna, Alex Heath, Kath Rowley.)

The objectives of this workshop were to:

  • Explore the state of knowledge and key aspects of a net zero transition for Australia encompassing the interaction with global targets and achievements to date, economic implications, and similarities and differences to our near neighbours. 
  • Explore the decarbonization challenges in the Australian electricity sector alongside the implications for demand from electrification of other current energy sources.
  • Explore the regional opportunities and challenges of delivering net zero for Australia, and a lesser extent the region.
  • Engage in a timely discussion of the key policy challenges as Australia grapples with reaching net zero.

The workshop aimed to help the many policy and analytical professionals who are grappling with understanding the scale and implications of the net zero transition for Australia. Attendees had the opportunity to hear a diverse set of perspectives on the economic implications of a net zero transition in Australia, engage with presenters in panel sessions, and to leave with an understanding of the practical and policy challenges across the economy of achieving net zero emissions in Australia. It is our hope that participants left better informed to consider and contribute to urgent debates around the speed of transition, including the next Nationally Determined Contribution target for 2035, and the sectoral pathways in development by the Australian Government. Each session included a mix of applied researchers presenting analytical results and policy makers who will explore the policy challenges and in some instances the policy responses. The intent is to generate a more active discussion amongst all participants (research presenters, panel contributors, audience). 

SESSION 1: Setting the scene: What a net zero transition means for the Australian economy

Global net zero framing and considerations                                

Frank Jotzo, ANU Professor of environmental economics and climate change economics 

What does a net zero pathway look like for Australia                                       

George Verikios, CSIRO Net Zero Pathways Initiative Lead BI (IEA modelling of a net zero pathway for Australia)

Key Net Zero Transition Challenges for the Australian Economy (Slides)

Alex Heath, Head of Climate and Energy Division. Australian Government Treasury



SESSION 2: Transitioning our electricity and energy systems

Scale and timing of the electricity transition challenge for Australia (Slides)

Luke Reedman, Lead – Energy Transition Pathways, CSIRO Energy

What role for Hydrogen in Australia’s future energy sector? (Slides)

Allison Reeve, ANU Grand Challenge: Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific

What role for Bioenergy in Australia?                                       

Mengyu Li, University of Sydney, Integrated Sustainability Analysis, Faculty of Science

SESSION 3: The Net Zero transition in Australian regions and sectors

What do net zero pathways mean for land use in Australia




Ray Marcos Martinez, CSIRO Net Zero Pathways research Land Use Stream Lead

Regional net zero transition implications for Victoria   




Martin Jones, Technical lead for economics and energy in Climate Action Policy, Victorian Government

The role of Renewable energy precincts in transition (Slides)     

Chris Briggs, UTS




Sectoral implications of a net zero transition for Australia   

Anna Skarbek, Climate Works

SESSION 4: Economic policy and the net zero economy

What are the critical ‘hard to achieve’
policy challenges facing
Australia from your perspective



Kath Rowley, DCCEEW (Slides)
Erwin Jackson, Investor Group on Climate Change,
Jee Karunarathna, Net Zero Economy Agency