Our model, AusTIMES, was developed by Climateworks and CSIRO based on the globally-recognised TIMES model from the International Energy Agency.
AusTIMES provides a view of how the entire Australian economy could decarbonise at the lowest cost over time.
When producing scenarios, Climateworks provides the model with three main types of inputs:
- assumptions on how energy demand will change over time
- assumptions on how the costs of different technologies will change over time
- emissions constraints.
Emissions constraints could be annual caps or targets, such as those set by government. They could also be the total emissions released over time, such as the ‘carbon budget’ (Australia’s fair share of global emissions) for staying within certain levels of warming, e.g. 1.5°C.
Based on these inputs, AusTIMES produces what we refer to as a ‘pathway’, which includes:
- the changes in emissions from the whole economy over time
- the changes in emissions from each sector of the economy over time
- the types of technologies that get implemented in the scenario, and when they are implemented.
Our 2023 pathways contain a depth of information well beyond what we have been able to show here and are useful in a variety of ways.
They provide a guide to the total level of ambition, economy-wide, that can meet the temperature thresholds outlined in the Paris Agreement.
The pathways can inform decision-makers and policy-makers when establishing Australia’s emission reductions commitments, such as the next update to its nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement, due 2025.
The pathways also demonstrate the relative contribution of different sectors to the decarbonisation of the overall economy. This can be informative in the development of future sectoral plans.
The pathways offer a view of which decarbonisation technologies are most cost effective as the nation moves to a low-carbon economy. This can be useful for governments and also for investors such as banks, superannuation funds and other financial institutions as they look towards the future.
And the pathways are also useful to the public as a way to understand how Australia can deliver on its international climate commitments.
Pathways evolving as context shifts
The two scenarios presented here, along with the accompanying assumptions and methodology report [PDF], represent our third major public release of economy-wide decarbonisation pathways for Australia, with the first released in 2014 in collaboration with Australian National University as part of the 2050 Deep Decarbonisation Pathways project.
Our 2020 release, Decarbonisation Futures, demonstrated how progress in the previous five years had closed the technical gap, making it possible to achieve zero emissions in many sectors and decarbonise in line with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Our decarbonisation pathways have changed over time due to a range of factors – such as the emergence or maturation of new technologies, or new scientific insights or discoveries.
There have been some major developments since our previous economy-wide pathways releases:
- Hydrogen is better understood and more accepted as a potential solution for hard to abate sectors such as industry.
- The policy context has shifted. Australia has committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and there is more action and commitment globally.
- Science on global warming is much clearer, and there is a growing consensus on the need to aim for 1.5°C rather than 2°C to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
- Ongoing updates to the model informed by our project and contract work for governments, organisations such as the Australian Energy Market Operator, and corporate clients including energy companies and financial institutions, and our work with the Australian Industry ETI.
Climateworks’ pathways will evolve again in future as external contexts continue to shift and we incorporate new developments into the model.
What remains is the need for increased ambition to match the opportunities available.