Australia’s Clean Industry Future: Making Things Here in a Net Zero World

09.03.23 By , , , , , and
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The world is undergoing a new Industrial Revolution. Driven by an urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, and grasp the economic advantages of renewable energy, this switch away from fossil fuels is reshaping the global economy with major implications and opportunities for Australian industry. 

Australia‘s economy has repeatedly evolved over the past 50 years. We moved away from a pastoral economy that relied heavily on wool, and we no longer “ride the sheep‘s back”. The service sector has grown rapidly at home, and become an important trade. While manufacturing has declined since its peak in the 1960s, we‘ve maintained strengths in both manufacturing and heavy industry. However, we have been slow to embrace the opportunity to transform emissions-intensive industries so they can thrive in a world that is rapidly decarbonising. 

The impetus for acting on climate change is no longer in doubt, but the task is large and the timeline available is short. All parts of our economy must play a role, including the heaviest industrial emitters. This is no easy task, but Australia can‘t afford to shy away from the challenge. By moving towards a clean energy economy, we can secure Australia‘s ability to make things at home for decades to come. 

In fact, Australia has a comparative advantage in the production of renewable energy, and also has globally significant reserves of metal ores and critical minerals. This means our economy is well-placed to thrive as global demand for low and zero carbon commodities booms with the right policy settings. 

Moving to a zero emissions future will result in three major changes to industry in Australia: the phase out of fossil fuel extraction and production, the decarbonisation of many existing industries such as steel and cement, and the rapid scaling up of new industries like critical minerals, renewable hydrogen, green ammonia and metal production. 

Australia's clean industry and future: making things here in a net zero world

Report Key findings:

1. A new Industrial Revolution, triggered by the world‘s response to climate change, is reshaping the global economy, with major implications and opportunities for Australian industry.

2. Making green metals in Australia using readily available materials under our feet could both secure our nation‘s economic future, and result in our country playing an outsized role in helping protect us all from harmful climate change.

3. There are readily available opportunities to cut emissions today within every industrial sector examined, as well as many emerging solutions that will be scalable within the next five to 10 years.

4. Industrial heavyweight states like Queensland are trialling new ways of making things here, as well as exploring major, new export opportunities in renewable hydrogen, green ammonia and critical minerals mining. 

5. Reforming our national laws can incentivise industrial innovation, help key industries thrive in a world where net zero is standard business, and support the development of major, new export opportunities.