Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

News

  • Written by Chris Briggs, Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

With 12 coal power stations in Australia closed since 2013, a full transition out of coal is coming.

Around the world, governments and stakeholders are considering how to implement a “just transition” from coal to clean energy – a transition that’s fair for local workers and communities in coal regions.

Some coal-producing nations, such as Germany and Spain, are delivering major just transition packages. Other nations are less successfully trying to navigate social conflicts around the transition, such as Poland and South Africa.

But so far in Australia, there is little planning for the transition.

What can Australia learn from other international experiences to plan our own just transition? Through our ongoing research we found four important lessons.

Read more: What would a fair energy transition look like?

Lesson 1: build a social compact

Climate science demands the energy transition be as rapid as possible. But faster transitions threaten the capacity of local labour markets to replace jobs lost in coal.

Unions have begun shifting from defensive support for coal towards a just transition perspective, but this support can unravel once job losses start to hit.

In South Africa, for instance, trade unions helped pioneer a just transition. But they brought legal action to stop renewable energy auctions amid coal closures without adjustment support for workers.

Germany, on the other hand, has managed industrial transitions in the western coal regions since the late 1960s through effective negotiations.

In 2018, Germany’s government-appointed “coal commission” developed a pathway for the full closure and transition of the coal industry by 2038. It involved a process with representatives from unions, industry associations, coal regions, scientists, local communities and environmental NGOs.

A social compact between the key parties is needed to manage the conflicts that can emerge over a transition out of coal.

Just transition commissions have been established in Canada, Scotland – and now South Africa.

So Australia should be considering two things to build a social compact for coal transition:

  • a taskforce including all the key stakeholders to negotiate an overarching framework for a transition out of coal

  • an on-going process for including stakeholders at national and regional level, because it will be a long-term process requiring negotiated trade-offs.

Lesson 2: plan early for closures

If transition planning is delayed until mass redundancies are on the horizon, labour markets will not cope with the volume of displaced workers.

Planning for closures is starting to emerge at an industry and company-level in some nations (such as Italy, Germany and Australia) - which includes retraining, support for early retirements and the redeployment of workers.

How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world The Hazelwood power station is one of a dozen coal fired power stations that have shut in recent years. David Crosling/AAP

Victoria is a global leader on regional level adjustment. The La Trobe Worker Transfer Scheme is redeploying retrenched Hazelwood power station workers to other sites.

Site remediation is also an important way we can restore the local environment quality and create semi and low-skilled jobs at the most critical time of the transition. Mandatory requirements need to be established for funds allocated to the coal industry.

Read more: Hazelwood's closure calls for a rethink on Latrobe Valley solutions

Lesson 3: diversify the regional economy

The Institute for Sustainable Futures has modelled the global employment impacts in the energy sector if we meet the Paris Climate Agreement.

The modelling found jobs will grow across almost all occupational categories. There will be big job losses among machine operators and assemblers as coal closures occur, but this group also experiences the strongest job growth within the renewables sector, especially solar.

How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world Changes in jobs in transition from coal to renewable energy. Click table to zoom. Author provided

But market restructuring alone will not deliver a just transition.

In each of the coal regions we examined, there is little prospect for large-scale renewable energy because the best solar and wind resources are located elsewhere.

This means workers will rarely transfer seamlessly to new jobs without having to move away from home. And as many of the new jobs are in the construction phase, ongoing jobs will be replaced by a higher volume of temporary jobs.

Read more: How to fight climate change in agriculture while protecting jobs

Local solar and energy efficiency can be a source of new jobs but ultimately diversifying the regional economy is the solution for creating new jobs beyond coal. Each region has different mixes of sectors and capabilities, so economic diversification strategies need to be tailored.

These are some features of successful plans to diversify regional economies:

  • develop links with related industries and establish new industries

  • extend the capabilities of existing industries and workers

  • fund labour-intensive projects, such as site remediation and plant decommissioning

  • target infrastructure upgrades and skill development for coal regions.

Lesson 4: establish funds and authority for a just transition

Specialist funds are being established to oversee, develop and implement coal transition programs. The European Commission’s coal and carbon-intensive regions in transition initiative is investing funds in 13 coal regions.

In Germany, the coal commission has recommended a funding package of €40 billion to support the coal regions, with legislation due May 2019.

The Spanish government has established a €250 million fund, which includes support for workers, economic diversification and environmental restoration.

How is Australia placed?

National climate and energy policy is a fiasco in Australia. The federal government has no energy transition plan and refused to sign a Just Transition declaration at the Poland climate conference in December 2018.

On a positive note, there have been some innovative regional responses. The Victorian Government has established the La Trobe Valley Authority, which is funding economic diversification initiatives.

How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world Hazelwood employees have been concerned about worker transition after the power station’s closure. Mal Fairclough/AAP

The ALP will establish a Just Transition Authority if it wins the federal election, which will develop regional transition plans and oversee redundancy schemes. Unions, industry and local communities will have direct input.

Read more: Labor's policy can smooth the energy transition, but much more will be needed to tackle emissions

But without a coordinated exit schedule like the German coal commission, coal closures will still likely be abrupt, driven by technical breakdowns or renewables growth squeezing out less profitable generators.

The ALP scheme also only covers power generators – not coal mining – which will be more challenging because there are more low-skilled workers (around half are drivers and machine operators).

Social and political support can unravel very quickly once regional communities start to transition. In Queensland, mining unions are opposing any candidates that will not support the Adani mine after their national body led the shift to a just transition policy by the ACTU.

Australia would be wise to invest heavily in just transition planning and investment alongside technology development.

Authors: Chris Briggs, Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/how-to-transition-from-coal-4-lessons-for-australia-from-around-the-world-115558

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

What Should You Expect from A Carpentry Apprenticeship?

Those wanting to pursue a career in woodwork, whether it be to make furniture, construct buildings or repair existing wooden structures, will have to first commence a carpentry apprenticeship. This ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo