Beyond Zero Emissions: Deep Dive
Read our full Deep Dive on "Beyond Zero Emissions":
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is an independent think-tank whose research shows the technological and financial feasibility of achieving zero emissions in Australia in the short-term, while maintaining employment for people in regional communities that have traditionally depended on fossil fuels. Its research identifies net zero pathways to unlock economic opportunities for emissions-intensive industries and regional communities (i.e. communities outside the capital cities). This includes showcasing successful projects to inspire policy-makers to replicate and scale.
BZE began around 2006 as a small group of engineers and scientists who set out to develop a plan for Australia’s electricity sector to become 100 per cent renewable in 10 years. It is now an organisation with 20 employees and hundreds of volunteers from around the country who have helped to develop sector-based and region-specific decarbonisation plans for the whole economy. BZE’s budget is projected to reach $3.8 million for the 2021-2022 financial year. The majority of BZE’s funding is from donations.
BZE’s research, stakeholder engagement and advocacy is helping to counter the narrative created by the fossil fuel industry that decarbonisation will ruin Australia’s economy and cost regional jobs. This has been a major feature of the political debate in Australia about climate change policy for decades, and an obstacle to progress. BZE plays an important role in developing and advocating for decarbonisation pathways that will enable ‘mining communities’ to prosper, for new industries to be created, and existing ones to be expanded. This work is particularly cogent in regional electorates whose Members of Parliament are holding the balance of power in political debates about climate change in Australia. Shifting the mindsets of voters in these electorates towards the economic and employment opportunities from decarbonisation could unlock significant progress on climate policy at a federal level, for both a Labor and Liberal-National government.
BZE’s theory of change can be summarised as follows: BZE’s research, stakeholder engagement and advocacy leads to strategically important regional communities and industries understanding the benefits that decarbonisation can bring them, and politicians understanding the political opportunities from facilitating these benefits. That reduces community, industry, and political resistance to decarbonisation, which leads to the introduction of decarbonisation policies. That leads to increased investment in renewable energy and zero emissions industries. That leads to emissions reductions.
BZE’s ideas are already gaining traction with communities, industry, and policy-makers in regional electorates. Several experts that we interviewed cited BZE’s work on Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts (REIPs) and the Million Jobs Plan as having a significant impact on climate policy at a federal and state level.
Additional marginal investment could help BZE scale up these programs, informing policy proposals that would rapidly decarbonise sectors and communities this decade, which is critical to avoiding catastrophic temperature rise.
We surveyed 52 experts in Australian climate change policy development, and 12 of them cited BZE as one of the most influential organisations working on climate policy in Australia: which is the highest number of votes any organisation received. BZE and its volunteers have been recognised as significant contributors to the climate movement. In 2020, BZE was awarded Best International Climate Change and Environment Think Tank by the UK’s Prospect Magazine, and also received the Environmental Philanthropy Award from Philanthropy Australia.
Based on BZE’s achievements, strategic approach to addressing climate policy barriers, and the impact that additional funding would have, we recommend it as one of our top organisations for influencing federal government climate policy.