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The Superpower Institute: Deep Dive

Download our deep dive report on The Superpower Institute:

The Superpower Institute Deep Dive
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Giving Green classifies The Superpower Institute as one of Australia’s top climate nonprofits in 2024. We think its theory of change is compelling and that its team has uniquely strong expertise. We are also impressed by its thought leadership in popularising the idea of Australia as a major renewable energy exporter. 

Australia’s green industrial exports are a lever by which Australia could reduce a significant portion of world emissions in sectors which would be difficult for most other countries to decarbonise—as explored in Giving Green’s report, High-Impact Climate Giving in Australia. The Superpower Institute can help to accelerate the development of green industry in Australia by working to address policy gaps that can lay the foundation for green industry. We think its research and policy work can lead to changes which would make green industrial work significantly more likely to happen at scale in Australia. Achieving this would drive down the costs of a number of green industrial goods worldwide and foster innovation that could be utilised in multiple other countries. 

The Superpower Institute has ambitious plans for accelerating Australia’s development into a major renewable energy exporter and a major exporter of green industrial products. In addition to addressing domestic emissions (which make up approximately 1% of global emissions), The Superpower Institute's approach aims to enable Australia to play a role in decarbonising up to 7% of global carbon emissions. If successful, this strategy would have significantly higher impact on addressing climate change than any domestic strategy, reducing hard-to-decarbonise industrial emissions globally, while also having strong economic benefits for Australia. The Superpower Institute reported a funding gap of $1.5 million AUD for its research and policy work and would use additional funds to further its research and policy work.

  • ​​What is The Superpower Institute? The Superpower Institute is a climate think tank run by some of Australia’s most experienced economists, implementing a strategy focused on reducing Australia’s industrial export emissions in ways that can lead to significant economic benefits for Australia. It aims not only to help Australia decarbonise its domestic emissions but also to have significantly larger impacts on climate globally through decarbonising export products. The Superpower Institute primarily works towards accelerating the development of low-emissions heavy industry in Australia, reducing emissions from Australia’s industrial exports, and catalysing major green export industries in Australia. This is among the highest-scale climate strategies operating in Australia, as industrial export emissions currently comprise a very large and comparatively neglected portion of Australia’s emissions profile. 

  • How could The Superpower Institute reduce greenhouse gases? The Superpower Institute's research has been used and will likely continue to be used to inform Australian policymakers. The Superpower Institute has a strong focus on strategies that can allow Australia to be a major green energy exporter. This approach is especially important, as exported emissions currently make up the vast majority of Australia’s emissions profile but are still comparatively neglected. Much of The Superpower Institute's research works to highlight the economic viability and significant economic advantages of developing green industry in Australia and having Australia become a green exporter at a global scale. The Superpower Institute highlights both macro benefits, including improved economic growth and development of new industries, as well as micro benefits, including significantly improved employment opportunities in regional communities. A number of Australian policy insiders interviewed by Giving Green have suggested that this emphasis on economic advantage is critical for climate policy advocacy work in Australia to gain traction. The Superpower Institute focuses on work which could have the largest impact on climate, such as accelerating Australia’s green exports industry and introducing emissions monitoring systems to allow Australia’s green products to be recognised internationally by, for example, Europe’s CBAM. Best practice emissions monitoring will also ensure that National Inventory data is accurate and robust and accurately pinpoint whether policy frameworks such as the government’s federal Safeguard Mechanism are having the impact that is needed.

  • Giving Green’s method of analysis: In assessing The Superpower Institute, Giving Green engaged in a short literature review and an extensive series of interviews with a variety of experts about The Superpower Institute's approach, including climate policy experts, government policymakers, advocacy practitioners, academics, foundations, and think tanks. In addition to speaking directly with The Superpower Institute, Giving Green also reviewed publicly available information on The Superpower Institute, including its policy reports, website, and recent media coverage. Giving Green also drew insights from our report on Australian climate philanthropy, which identifies highest-impact strategies in Australian climate work. 

  • Room for more funding: In our assessment, we conclude that The Superpower Institute has room to impactfully deploy more funding and could deliver substantial returns from additional marginal investment. Additional funding would enable it to expand its research and policy work. In particular, research and policy work in the short term will likely focus on proposals such as the Emissions Monitoring Scheme – which would be a powerful enabling feature for developing the green industry in Australia, as well as for the successful operation of Australia’s Safeguard Mechanism. It is our impression that funding at this stage could be particularly catalytic for The Superpower Institute’s future progress.

  • Co-benefits and co-costs: We find The Superpower Institute's work to have substantial co-benefits. These take the form of economic benefits for Australia, employment benefits for Australian regional workers, and air quality benefits for both Australia and its industrial export partners. We also identify co-costs incurred by its work, including employment loss in some of Australia’s export partners and potential economic costs to the Australian government stemming from investment in green industries.

  • Key uncertainties: Our key uncertainties include a) whether the track record of policy change from individuals on The Superpower Institute’s team will translate to organisational success at policy change, b) whether the team will be able to manage key-person risk and maintain high performance in the long-term, and c) the fact that success of green industry may also be to some degree dependent on some international factors, which cannot be easily affected by Australian policy. However, we consider most of these uncertainties to be largely manageable, and consider the expected value of The Superpower Institute’s work to be extremely high and to be among the best philanthropic opportunities in the Australian climate space.

  • Bottom line/next steps: Based on The Superpower Institute's early signs of traction, its strong working relationships with government, the extremely high level of expertise on its team, its strategic, high-leverage approach, and the tractability of the current political environment, we conclude that The Superpower Institute is potentially one of the most effective climate organisations in Australia, with very high potential upside impact. Giving Green considers The Superpower Institute to be a highly promising philanthropic funding option.

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