The importance of securing a just transition for coal workers and communities has been highlighted today with the release of "The Ruhr or Appalachia? Deciding the future of Australia's coal-fired power workers and communities"report by the CFMMEU today.
The CFMMEU Ruhr or Appalachia report highlights the contrasting experience of Germany’s Ruhr region and the USA’s Appalachia region in dealing with the structural decline of coal. Cooperative planning with unions, government and industry, and putting in place policies to stagger closures, re-deploy workers and diversify industry are shown to be crucial in securing a transition like that of the Ruhr, which saw workers and communities maintain jobs and prosperity.
As the report makes clear, the alternative of refusing to plan or put in place transitional policies has been tried in Appalachia and other regions, with the results being intergenerational unemployment, poverty and social dysfunction and all the ill’s that go with it.
It is unplanned, chaotic and costly transition which characterises the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s approach of burying their head in the sand about inevitable coal plant closures. Not only has the Liberal Government failed to plan for future coal plant closures, they have failed to deliver significant support in response to coal plant closures that have occurred under their watch, like Northern in Pt Augusta and Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley, and they even fought against the inclusion of a Just Transition clause in the Paris Agreement.
Australia’s energy industry and electricity agencies are clear that our ageing coal plants will inevitably close, regardless of whether the Liberal party accepts and plans for closures or not. As Tony Maher, the President of the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMMEU "We can wring our hands and say 'it's terrible' or we can put the workers and the communities first".
Labor will always stand with workers and communities, and deliver a Just Transition to coal communities.