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High-Impact Climate Giving in Australia

Australian philanthropists can maximise impact and reduce global emissions by up to 7% by backing initiatives focused on decarbonising heavy industry exports. Download our white paper:

High-Impact Climate Giving in Australia
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This report was last updated in June 2024.

A summary of our findings is as follows:

  • We think the most promising philanthropic strategy to address climate change from within Australia is decarbonising Australia’s industry exports. This strategy maps well with all five of our impact indicators: systems change, global impact, comparative advantage, political context, and neglectedness. We also analysed reducing coal and natural gas exports, but we found this strategy to be less neglected and less politically viable.

  • Australia is uniquely well-placed to decarbonise industrial emissions globally. Due to Australia’s unique comparative advantages—abundant solar and wind resources, abundant raw materials, and a strong export market—it may be able to decarbonise a significant portion of heavy industry at a lower cost than almost any other country would be. This approach would affect Australia’s domestic heavy industry, and also a significant portion of global heavy industry emissions through Australia’s exports. Some economists estimate that Australia could decarbonise an estimated 7% of global emissions.

  • This approach is high scale, partially due to the high carbon footprint of Australian exports. The contribution of Australian exports to global emissions is several times larger than all of Australia’s domestic emissions combined.

    Carbon-relevant exports include fossil fuels and raw materials for heavy industry such as iron and aluminium. As an example, this approach could see Australian iron ore turned into iron here using green hydrogen, rather than exported overseas and processed using high-emissions technologies.

  • This approach is ready for philanthropic support. Recent years have seen a rise in nonprofits working on decarbonising Australia’s heavy industry exports by advocating for greater deployment of renewables, upgrading and expanding the grid, and financing industrial development and innovation.

  • We identified three promising focus areas within this strategy. We believe the most effective approaches to decarbonising heavy industry and heavy industry exports are to electrify on a large scale, enhance transmission networks, and implement policies that encourage the development and financing of industrial technology. These actions can also assist in creating alternative industries and exports for those regions currently reliant on heavy industry.

  • We acknowledge a few key uncertainties in this strategy. Key uncertainties include the likelihood of technological progress in other areas lessening Australia’s comparative advantage in green industry, the efficacy of government incentives, and the willingness of other countries to import cost-competitive industrial goods from Australia.

  • Overall, we think it is important to direct more philanthropic funding toward creating and expanding green heavy industries in Australia. This view is informed by the significant opportunity size, a perceived high level of tractability, challenges of decarbonisation in this sector in other countries, comparative advantage in the Australian context, and the comparatively low level of funding these sectors have received so far.

  • Following this investigation, we identified actionable routes for philanthropists to direct funding to this strategy. While outside the scope of this report, we conducted a search for the most effective nonprofits decarbonising heavy industry. The nonprofits we found form our list of top climate nonprofits in Australia.

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