Australia is yet to commit to join other nations in pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050, but the government appears to be inching closer to setting a target.

While not committing to a net zero goal, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted in April that Australia’s energy mix needed to change over the next 30 years “on the road to net zero emissions”.

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Morrison has shied away from implementing taxes, such as a carbon price, to spur the push to net zero, instead calling for emissions to be reduced through new technology and “the animal spirit of capitalism”.

Wood Mackenzie Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions, Prakash Sharma, believes Australia can reach net zero emissions before 2050, but says it will require a complete transformation of its traditional energy and export sectors.

"This will require Australia to become a significant player in low-carbon hydrogen trade as well as being able to offer carbon storage and offset services,” he says.

Sharma added the country’s total carbon-removal capacity will need to reach about 200 million tonnes per annum by 2050.

"Nearly 83% of power generation comes from solar and wind by 2050 as compared to about 20% last year,” he said.

“Natural gas, bio energy, geothermal and small modular reactor will supply the remaining 17% in power output. Coal-into-power is expected to be phased out by 2035."

Industry backing

Australian oil and gas companies, including Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search, Beach Energy and Origin Energy, have revealed ambitions to reach net zero emissions for their operations by 2050.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) earlier this year stated its support for the Paris Agreement goals and said natural gas is the “perfect partner” for intermittent renewable energy.

The government also sees gas as integral to Australia’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, pledging financial support last year to unlock gas supplies in the Beetaloo, North Bowen and Galilee basins.

It has also pledged to deliver an efficient pipeline and transportation market in a bid to make energy more affordable and support jobs as part of its plan for a “gas-led recovery” from the global pandemic.