Climate Change and the Just Transition

The Friends of the Earth Melbourne have just released an important paper entitled “Transforming Victoria: creating jobs whilst cutting emissions” calling for a ‘green new deal’ and a ‘fair and just transition’. Essentially the report highlights the chaotic nature of the rapid change we are currently experiencing moving from a fossil fuel based economy to one based on renewable energy. It then offers a substantial range of solutions.

They note that “Many aging coal-fired power stations are nearing the end of their lives and the native forests sector is clearly unsustainable and on the verge of collapse. The economy is undergoing a market-driven transformation and many of these changes are bad for blue collar workers, for instance, as was shown by the closure of the Australian car industry” and that “Without a fair and just transition (FJT) plan, the inevitable impact of future changes will disproportionately fall on workers and communities who are currently reliant on the stationary energy sector, fossil fuel extraction, forestry products, and associated downstream industries.”

As I have pointed out many times in this blog the unplanned and unco-ordinated nature of the current transition is a recipe for political reaction, as is happening in Queensland now or in the Latrobe Valley after privatisation. For Gippsland the Report advocates a package for the rehabilitation of Hazelwood and duplication and bridge projects on the railway. It calls for a ‘Just Transition Authority’ to be created to oversee and co-ordinate the transition which in Gippsland involves both the Latrobe Valley and the bush. In particular fair employment opportunities are required for those who have lost, or about to lose, their jobs in the old industries.

On the offshore wind farm proposal in South Gippsland the report notes “Victoria could soon be home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the landmark Star of the South offshore wind proposal. To make the most of this opportunity, the Victorian government should consider the importance of this project within a regional planning approach that can maximise local job creation in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland more broadly. The Latrobe Valley Authority must be specifically tasked with assisting workers from the Latrobe Valley and offshore oil and gas industry in Gippsland in gaining employment on the Star of the South project.” They note also that the farm must be built in Commonwealth waters and detail the tardiness of the current Federal government in this regard. Besides wind and mine rehabilitation another Gippsland project mentioned was the Paul Treasure pumped hydro energy storage proposal which was first published in this blog. 

Overall the report is comprehensive and detailed and should be required reading for all our State politicians. Above all a condition of over full employment is needed in Gippsland as soon as possible. This alone will enable the change to occur as fairly as possible. As the report notes “We need to act on the climate crisis at an unprecedented speed and scale if we are going to prevent climate change from getting worse and protect the community from the impacts.” It is not a matter of whether we do this but how we can achieve it as quickly and as painlessly as possible.