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From the Editors

Introducing The Conversation’s new climate series, Getting to Zero

Solar farm in northern Canberra, June 2022. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Australia, like many other countries, has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 – just 27 years from now. The Albanese government has also committed to sourcing 82% of all electricity from renewables by 2030 – just seven years from now.

To meet these targets, and to avoid the potentially catastrophic effects of unchecked global warming, requires Australia to play its part in a transformation that former Chief Scientist Alan Finkel describes as “the most profound economic change to civilisation of all time.”

Getting to Zero, a new series in The Conversation, examines how – and whether – this transformation will occur.

Drawing on some of Australia’s leading experts on climate change, the series shows how the net zero transition will challenge not only local and global politics but our economy, financial systems and planning schemes. It will test our collective resilience, our capacity to adapt to swift and sweeping change.

The transition may also provide great opportunities for Australia, as Anna Skarbek shows in her opening piece. The CEO of Climateworks Centre works closely with government and industry to develop net zero plans, and amidst the constant conflict over climate policy she observes tectonic shifts underway in our economy and regions.

In an accompanying article, Emeritus Professor Judith Brett, a political scientist, provides the other side of the climate dilemma: a much bleaker assessment of the ability of our political system to solve this problem in time.

What’s next in the series?

Like Skarbek, Australia’s former Chief Scientist Alan Finkel also believes that the net zero transition is starting to gather pace – driven by the United States, long seen as a laggard in addressing climate change. Writing for The Conversation, Finkel argues that the Biden Administration’s climate legislation, notably the Inflation Reduction Act and the money that goes with it, could be a game-changer, kickstarting clean energy projects not only in the US but across the world.

But several writers, including Tracey Dodd from Adelaide University and Peter Burnett of the Australian National University, warn that the transition could fail unless the Australian government addresses the concerns of low-income Australians about energy prices, and of regional and Indigenous communities most affected by the construction of new climate-friendly infrastructure.

Getting to Zero will tackle tough questions about the transition. Should Australia allow new coal and gas projects? Is nuclear power part of the solution?

Tony Wood, Energy Program Director at Grattan Institute, argues that Australia urgently needs a national industrial strategy – a plan – to get to net zero. Former chief economist at AGL Energy, Tim Nelson, will examine how our electricity grids will be remade in order to hit our ambitious 2030 national target for renewables.

And renowned environmentalist and Climate Councillor Tim Flannery will look at whether untried and potentially dangerous technological solutions offer our last hope to save the planet. These are just some of the articles that will appear in our Getting to Zero series.

The transition to net zero will stand or fall on the support it wins from the Australian public. We are confident that Getting to Zero will leave our readers much better informed about this great challenge of our time, and the role all of us can play in responding to it.

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