Timber the solution as Australia commits to a fully circular economy

New expert group established to advise government on transition to a circular economy.

Mon 28 Nov 22


A new expert group will help Australia transition to a fully circular economy by 2030.

It will consider products across all sectors that are designed and manufactured – timber and paper-based products.

Professor John Thwaites will chair the expert members, who include chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley and CSIRO boss Dr Larry Marshall.

Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek addressed more than 200 attendees at the Circularity Conference in Sydney.

“A circular economy will create jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the amount of waste we put into landfill,” the Minister said in a statement.

“This transition is really exciting for the environment and the economy.”

The decision to stand up the expert group followed a meeting of all Australian environment ministers in October 2022.

At the meeting, the ministers agreed to work with the private sector to foster markets and achieve a circular economy within the next eight years. This would be done by designing out waste and pollution and keeping materials in use.

The Circularity Conference is an initiative of Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy (ACE) Hub.

Paul Klymenko, outgoing CEO of Planet Ark, thanked the Minister for the Federal support.

After 30 years as founding director and CEO, Paul Klymenko will remain as a strategic advisor and support incoming CEO Rebecca Gilling who was announced as the new CEO during the conference.

Under Gilling’s leadership, Planet Ark will target three critical areas that Australia must act on – the circular economy, how we use energy, and our connection to nature.

Gilling says consumers have a poor level of understanding of what circular economy means.

“The circular economy is NOT recycling – this was one of the key messages to emerge from our Circularity conference. Another important point reinforced at the conference was that 80 per cent of the waste in packaging is built in at the design level, so work must be done to encourage design for circularity,” she said.

Planet Ark, through its “Make It Wood” campaign is a strong supporter of timber as the ultimate renewable –encouraging the increased use of responsibly sourced wood as a building material and a main choice for furniture, toys, and other household items. 

Hyne Timber Strategic Relations Manager and Responsible Wood Director and eco-architect Mark Thomson were both invited to present to the conference – in separate sessions – reflecting on the fully-circular benefits of timber as a decarbonised building product.

Timber is widely understood to be the ultimate building product, a point not lost on Sara Leong – the Chief Asset Management Manager of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – a panellist in the final session of the conference.

In February 2022, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation announced a $300 million program to encourage mass timber construction across the property sector.

The approach has the potential to substantially cut construction-related emissions, providing a greener alternative to conventional construction materials.  

The CEFC, which invests on behalf of the Australian Government, created the Timber Building Program on the back of new CEFC research confirming the critical need to transform our approach to construction if we are to achieve an economy-wide transition to net zero emissions. 

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said: “Timber has been used in construction for generations. Innovations in engineered wood products have created new opportunities for mass timber construction to be used in larger projects, creating the potential for immediate and long-term environmental benefits.  

“Our new Timber Building Program will help finance this transition by encouraging owners, developers and builders to use lower carbon engineered wood products in their projects.  The CEFC has a strong track record in financing new market developments, from large-scale solar to cleantech start-ups. We are excited to bring this expertise to sustainable construction.”   

Through the Timber Building Program the CEFC has allocated up to $300 million in debt finance for eligible projects Australia wide – including commercial offices, retail, industrial, healthcare and education. Finance may also be available for multi-residential apartments, seniors living and student accommodation projects. Concessional finance may be available under certain circumstances.  

For more information about the Timber Building Program please visit

Timber emits much lower carbon than all other building materials – and the push to decarbonise the Australian economy and promote circularity provides a major opportunity for Australian forest products.

In announcing the State of the Climate 2022 report, Science and Industry Minister acknowledged that a “systems-wide” change was needed in order for Australia to meet its net-zero goals.

He pointed to a $15 billion national reconstruction fund to reinvigorate the local industrial base and ensure a net zero economy also created opportunities.

“A circular economy will ensure that we are on track to make these changes and support the energy transformation,” Husic said.

“It’s a great opportunity to create manufacturing systems that are optimised to be less resource intensive, produce less waste, and have less impact on the environment.”

The environment minister said she was looking forward to working with her state and territory peers, and the expert group, to drive design efforts to limit waste products.

“A circular economy will create jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the amount of waste we put into landfill,” Plibersek said.

“This transition is really exciting for the environment and the economy.”

An exciting development for the country and an even greater opportunity for the Australian timber industry!


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


Related Articles