2023 Net Zero Tracker and THE Impact Rankings of leading Australian universities - 100% Renewables

2023 Net Zero Tracker and THE Impact Rankings of leading Australian universities

About the Net Zero Tracker of Australian universities by 100% Renewables

The global movement towards net zero emissions is gaining traction, with organisations and governments worldwide committing to ambitious emission reduction targets in response to the urgent need to combat climate change. Universities have been at the forefront of this response, and 100% Renewables has closely monitored the commitments of Australian universities over several years now.

In this article, we revisit and update the ambitious climate action commitments by Australian universities. Furthermore, we provide the latest update on the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges, and report on the performance of Australian universities in the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings for 2023.

Free Guide – Net Zero Tracker and THE Impact Rankings of leading Australian universities 2023

Leader board of Australian universities

The list of leading Australian universities with ambitious emission reduction and renewable energy goals has increased from 24 to 29. Five new universities including University of Technology Sydney, University of Wollongong, Federation University Australia, Edith Cowan University, and Murdoch University have set near-term targets and climate positive goals.

Carbon neutral and ‘net zero’

Before we show the latest commitments by Australian universities, it is worthwhile re-visiting the differences between the terms ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’. While these terms have been used somewhat interchangeably in recent years, there is much greater clarity now on what these terms cover.

As described in our blogpost on this topic (link here):

  • Carbon neutrality is achieved when the amount of greenhouse gases produced by your organisation is balanced by the number of carbon offsets you purchase. Standards such as Climate Active and ISO 14068 require organisations to include their relevant scope 3 value chain emissions in order to become carbon neutral.
  • Net zero is a commitment to a long-term decarbonisation pathway that first requires taking direct actions to reduce emissions in your organisation and value chain to a minimum, and only then resorting to purchasing offsets to balance out the small amount of residual emissions.
  • Under the International Standards Organisation’s Net Zero Guidelines that were released at the end of 2022, residual emissions can only be offset by purchasing removal-based carbon offsets, as these types of offsets are seen as a surer path to achieving additional emissions reductions and therefore considered to be of higher quality.

Future changes to the Net Zero Tracker

Australian universities’ commitments vary in language and coverage, reflecting differing interpretations when targets were developed. With greater clarity on the meanings of carbon neutral and net zero, and with higher stakeholder expectations for net zero emissions targets that cover operations as well as value chain emissions, it may be an ideal time for universities to re-visit and re-set and/or clarify their goals.

In our next review of the sector’s emissions reduction targets, we will look more closely at what is included and what is not covered in universities commitments and will revise our reporting to highlight commitments to achieve net zero for all emissions scopes aligned with science for 1.5C of global heating and net zero integrity principles.

Universities’ net zero, emission reduction and renewable energy commitments

Figure 1: Carbon neutral, net zero and 100% renewables commitments by Australian universities as at March 2023 (map)
Figure 1: Ambitious climate commitments by Australian universities, July 2023 (map)

List of ambitious climate action commitments by Australian universities

StateUniversityRenewable energy CommitmentEmissions reduction commitment
ACTAustralian National UniversityNet zero emissions by 2025 for direct, energy and partial scope 3 emissions.
Below zero emissions by 2030 for the same scope.
NSWAustralian Catholic University100% renewable electricity from 2021.
NSWCharles Sturt University100% renewable electricity from 2022.Certified carbon neutral since 2016.
NSWMacquarie University100% renewable electricity from 2020.40% reduction in emissions intensity from energy by 2030.
NSWUniversity of New South WalesUNSW switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity in 2020.Reduce total (scope 1, 2 and 3) emissions by 30 per cent by 2025, 50 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.
NSWUniversity of Newcastle100% renewable electricity across Newcastle and Central Coast campuses from 1 January 2020.Achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
NSWUniversity of Sydney100% renewable electricity to all campuses on 1 July 2022.Net zero emissions by 2030.
NSWWestern Sydney University100% renewable electricity achieved in 2021.Carbon neutrality by 2023, and climate and nature positive by 2029.
NSWUniversity of Technology Sydney100% renewable electricity and net zero for scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025.Achieve net zero and climate positive by 2029.
NSWUniversity of WollongongNet zero emissions by 2030.
QLDCQ University50% of its energy for Queensland campuses from renewable solar from 2021.
QLDGriffith University50% renewable electricity by 2022.Net zero emissions by 2029 (based on defined emissions boundary).
QLDQueensland University of Technology50% of electricity from a newly constructed solar farm located at Columboola, Qld from 2022.Carbon neutral by 2030 (Scope 1,2,3 emissions)
Scope 1 and 2 emissions to zero by 2023.
QLDUniversity of Queensland100% renewable energy from 2020 via its own solar farm.To be a beyond carbon neutral university by 2025.
QLDUniversity of the Sunshine CoastCarbon neutral by 2025.
SAFlinders UniversityZero net emissions from electricity by 2021 (achieved for SA campuses).Vision to be climate positive.
SAUniversity of AdelaideNet zero emissions from directly controlled operations by 2025 and carbon neutral as per the Australian Government's Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for Organisations by 2030.
TASUniversity of TasmaniaCertified carbon neutral since 2016, divested from fossil fuel-exposed investment funds since 2021, 50% gross emissions reduction by 2030
VICDeakin UniversityCarbon neutral (energy only) from 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Carbon negative by 2030 including offsetting emissions.
VICFederation University of AustraliaNet zero scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2033.
VICLa Trobe University100% renewable energy.Carbon neutral by 2029, regional campuses to become carbon neutral by 2022.
VICMonash University100% renewable energy by 2030.Net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
VICRMIT University100% renewable electricity by 2025 (~75% achieved).Certified carbon neutral organisation under Climate Active by 2025.
VICSwinburne University of TechnologyProcure 100% renewable electricity from 1 July 2020.Carbon neutral by 2025.
VICUniversity of MelbourneAchieve zero net emissions from electricity by 2021
To replace natural gas infrastructure with equipment using renewable electricity by 2030.
Carbon neutral certification by 2025 and climate positive status by 2030.
VICVictoria University100% renewable electricity from 2021.Net zero emissions by 2025.
WAEdith Cowan UniversityBy 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.Carbon neutrality by 2030.
WAMurdoch UniversityCarbon neutral operations, zero waste to landfill and net zero transport plan by 2030.
WAUniversity of Western Australia100% renewable electricity by 2025.Energy Carbon Neutral by 2025.

Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges

Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth. The campaign mobilises a coalition of leading net zero initiatives, representing 1136 cities, 52 regions, 8307 companies, 595 financial investors, and 1125 Higher Education Institutions.

Since 2019, over 500 higher education institutions representing 10.9 million students have committed to be net-zero by 2050 at the latest through the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges.

Below are the Australian universities that are signatories of the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges, in alphabetical order. From last year’s list, two universities have joined this campaign – University of Sydney and La Trobe University.


ACTAustralian National University
NSWUniversity of New South Wales
NSWUniversity of Technology Sydney
NSWUniversity of Sydney
NSWWestern Sydney University
TASUniversity of Tasmania
VICDeakin University
VICRMIT University
VICLa Trobe University
VICSwinburne University of Technology
VICUniversity of Melbourne
VICVictoria University

Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2023, 15 Australian universities were ranked in the top 100 universities globally, and an Australian university tops the overall rankings! Western Sydney University ranks #1 for the second consecutive year out of 1591 universities from 112 countries and regions across the globe in the University Impact Rankings of the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023, scoring 99.4 out of 100 for their social, ecological and economic impact.

100% Renewables is proud to have worked with Western on its net zero emissions journey, as well as with University of Newcastle (#28) and University of the Sunshine Coast (#29) over the past few years.

The list of Australian institutions in the top 100 global universities for their THE Impact Ranking for 2023 is shown below.


1NSWWestern Sydney University99.4
5TASUniversity of Tasmania96.6
7VICRMIT University96.4
14NSWUniversity of Technology Sydney95
18NSWUniversity of New South Wales94.5
21VICMonash University94
28NSWUniversity of Newcastle93
29QLDUniversity of Sunshine Coast92.9
39NSWMacquarie University92.3
57VICLa Trobe University90.9
61NSWUniversity of Wollongong90.7
72QLDGriffith University89.8
74QLDCentral Queensland University89.7
79NSWCharles Sturt University89.5
92ACTUniversity of Canberra89


As well as the overall ranking across all Sustainable Development Goals, we have looked at the top-100 rankings of Australian universities across SDGs that are particularly relevant in terms of their response to climate change. Of particular note here is the #1 ranking for University of Tasmania for climate action globally followed by University of New South Wales in #2.


UniversityOverall Impact rankingSDG 7: Affordable and Clean EnergySDG 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesSDG 13: Climate Action
Western Sydney University12157
University of Tasmania529131
RMIT University7371917
University of Technology Sydney14582426
University of New South Wales183692
Monash University21747
University of Newcastle2879612
University of Sunshine Coast2928
Macquarie University39333613
La Trobe University57301-400201-300201-300
University of Wollongong61706741
Griffith University72
Central Queensland University74
Charles Sturt University79201-3008982
University of Canberra92401-600301-100301-400
Australian Catholic University101-200
Charles Darwin University101-20092
James Cook University101-200601-800201-300401-600
Queensland University of Technology101-200101-20095
Victoria University101-20070
Federation University Australia201-300401-600101-200
University of South Australia201-300101-200
Swineburne University of Technology401-600
The University of Western Australia401-60076
University of Queensland*NA18
Australian National University**NA19


*University of Queensland is not included in the overall impact rankings across all Sustainable Development Goals but they are ranked 53rd under World University Rankings 2023.

**Australian National University is not included in the overall impact rankings across all Sustainable Development Goals but they are ranked 62nd under World University Rankings 2023.



100% Renewables are experts in helping universities with their climate action and net zero strategies. Please download our university capability statement if you’d like to find out more about how we can help you.


Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog. 

Patrick Denvir

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