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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Fossil free future needs government and business to step up

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Massive coal mining project in the NSW Hunter Valley. Photo endcoal.org/ Max Phillips

The Australian government may continue to fantasise that they don’t need to reduce the production of fossil fuels but businesses are moving to reduce their carbon footprints without them. 

AGL announced today that they will close their Bayswater and Loy Yang A coal power stations earlier than expected and people in fossil fuel generating communities are recognising that effective transition for them in terms of jobs and livelihoods is required.  

Beyond Zero Emissions said in a press release that ‘the transition away from fossil fuels is happening faster than expected and the government needs to act fast to secure long-term jobs for regional workers’.

This point in supported by the recent poll in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and Hunter region of NSW agree that state and federal governments need to urgently step up to support both coal communities and industries to transition to clean energy according to Environment Victoria. 

The poll, conducted for Environment Victoria and Nature Conservation Council of NSW,  ‘found a strong appetite for governments to take a more active role in supporting both communities and industry to transition to renewable energy, including ensuring that companies take responsibility for the toxic legacy of their coal power stations and mines, said Environment Victoria in their media release.

The impacts of not reducing fossil fuel include the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

‘More than three quarters (76 per cent) agreed that governments should do more to transition from burning coal to renewable sources of power to meet our future energy needs.’

Beyond Zero Emissions chief executive Heidi Lee says that their ‘research has shown that our regional centres could not only survive but thrive in the zero-emissions economy with government support, coordination and funding’.

‘Pretending this energy transition isn’t happening helps no one. We need power station owners to come clean with realistic closure dates by 2030, so the community can plan ahead. We need all governments to take a much more active role in planning a transition for workers and the community,’ said Jacqui Mumford, Nature Conservation Council acting Chief Executive.

‘Australia could grow a new green export market worth $333 billion a year by 2050 by developing Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts in our regional industrial centres to produce the goods needed for the zero-emissions economy – green steel, green aluminium, renewable hydrogen and ammonia, critical minerals and batteries to the world,’ Ms Lee explained. 

‘They already have the skilled workforce but they need massive expansion of renewable energy production. 

‘Companies such as AGL – which plans to develop a renewable energy hub at its Bayswater and Liddell power station sites – are already planning for the future but cannot do it alone. They need the Federal Government to set ambitious clean export targets, fund Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts, and establish a Supergrid Deployment Authority to power them. 

‘The Hunter has the skilled workforce, infrastructure including roads, rail freight and port, to make a Renewable Energy Industrial Precinct a reality. Our modelling shows that a Hunter REIP would create 34,000 new local jobs in new industries by 2032, attract new capital investment of $28 billion and generate $11 billion in revenue per annum by 2032.’

Jono La Nauze, Environment Victoria CEO said that ‘It’s time for our governments to step up and show they are serious about developing the new industries and technologies that will create new jobs in these communities and enable all Victorians to reap the benefits of a transition to clean, renewable energy.’

Alinta’s Leigh Creek coal mine. Photo http://bze.org.au

Restore the land

The significant profits that private companies have made by exploiting Australia’s natural resources such as coal has also led to calls for them to clean up and restore the land they have used. 

‘The owners of these sites have irreversibly changed the landscape while collecting massive financial rewards. The Latrobe Valley community  deserves to have our land returned in pristine condition, and the State government needs to ensure sufficient training and support for displaced workers so they can convert to the new clean energy industries,’ said Tony Wolfe, senior operator at Loy Yang Power Station and Latrobe Valley community advocate.

Mr  La Nauze is also calling for the Victorian State Government ‘to work with locals to build a community-led transition plan for the region in the Latrobe Valley.

‘Communities living close to coal mines want the state government to ensure that the private companies clean up their giant holes in the landscape and make them safe for future use,’ he said.

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