The Australian National University has committed to reducing carbon emissions to below zero by 2030.

The university is the first in the country to announce such a goal, outlining what it calls its Below Zero Initiative.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt says the university wants to hit net-zero emissions by 2025 as a stepping stone.

“Climate change is already here. The past decade includes nine of the 10 hottest years on record around the world — 2019 was Australia's hottest year ever,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Unfortunately, the world is on track to warm by between 2.8 and 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

“Achieving below zero is ambitious and it will involve big changes to the way we do things — but as the national university, we must show leadership in driving a societal transformation to address climate change.”

The ANU estimates it produces over 55,000 tonnes of CO2 in a typical year, largely in the form of work travel emissions and natural gas use.

Climate and energy expert at ANU, Professor Mark Howden, says the university will fully transition off gas and cut business travel and waste.

“Simple things like making [the ANU's] buildings more energy efficient, less leaky in terms of losing heat or gaining cold depending on the season, replacing gas heaters with electric heaters, ensuring the building usage is appropriate; not cooling or heating or lighting rooms that aren't being used,” Professor Howden said.

“In terms of transport emissions, we're moving away from our fossil fuel-based vehicles into electric vehicles and in terms of work travel we're cutting down on that as much as possible.”

The uni is also looking at some less common techniques, such as redirecting the heat produced by its supercomputers to keep buildings warm.

The below zero plan includes carbon sequestration measures, turning facilities into a ‘carbon sink’, though it concedes this will require further development of carbon removal or negative emissions technologies.

ANU has been criticised in recent years for moves to divest itself of shares in resource and mining companies due to their climate impact. 

It has not pledged to fully divest from fossil fuels, but says it is working towards reducing the “carbon intensity” of its $1.5 billion portfolio.