A Just Transition Narrative by Michael Borgas

Image Act on Climate Melbourne

Excerpts from an article in Just Community No 9*

“Never waste a crisis, so they say. On the back of record bushfires, drought and heatwaves, even in Siberia, it seems that the whole world is aching to deal with climate change. On the back of a pandemic, most recognise that ‘business as usual’ has gone the way of the dinosaurs whose fossils we burn. Many lines of thinking and catchwords have emerged.

“A Just Transition is an accepted principle promoted by the trade unions and adopted by the Paris Climate Accord to create fair if not better employment standards and opportunities when transitioning industry away from fossil fuels and creating new climate-friendly industries… In Australia, peak union bodies like the ACTU also have Just Transition aspirations focused on decently paid and secure work. At its core, a Just Transition is concerned with the restructuring of the economy by moving away from precarious high carbon jobs to secure and decent low carbon ones.

“The story of a Just Transition in Australia is epitomised in the Repower Port Augusta campaign, which emerged following the abrupt closure of the Playford coal-fired power station…

“In response to the prospect of a cascade of lost jobs and fossil-fuel stranded assets and business failures, unions in Australia are campaigning for Just Transitions, and the Star of the South project in Gippsland might be the vanguard. This offshore wind project is being developed with Danish investors to create jobs and profit whilst supplying 18 percent of Melbourne’s power, together with the promise of better employment outcomes than in Port Augusta.

“The lessons, though, are that electricity generation and construction alone is not sufficient to create good long-term employment, and that using some electricity locally to create jobs and profits is essential too. Green power for production of bio-fertiliser from brown coal as an exportable value-added commodity is an excellent example of sustainable innovations capable of growing good jobs in Gippsland. Importantly, this means creating jobs not just in the clean energy sector, but in low carbon industries such as education and health, along with other care work. The point is that partnerships with working people and their union representatives are also vital to get the best outcomes in our broken and unfair society…

“A group of us are also thinking about a Just Transition, with three immediate goals: to inform and influence the community, to democratically influence local council, and to help develop a socially fair and sustainable economic plan for a prosperous South Gippsland that’s centred around low-carbon economic activity.

“My personal interest in a Just Transition for the area stems from my having moved to South Gippsland as a self-defined climate-change refugee, my background in science as a former CSIRO environmental scientist and trade unionist, and as an observer of major climate change induced industrial transformation in my old hometown of Port Augusta. The opportunities for a South Gippsland Just Transition are very promising but won’t come easily…

“Projects like bio-fertiliser production being developed in the Latrobe Valley depend on partnering with Monash University. Other potential innovations will require even more skilled workers not less…

*Full article is here. The Just Community website is here.