The Albanese government’s new ‘National Net Zero Authority’ – a body that will help workers in fossil fuel industries to transition into other employment – has won high praise from two key bodies that savaged past governments over their climate change policies.
The Mining and Energy Union, which represents workers most affected by a reduction in fossil fuel mining, and the Climate Council of Australia, an independent community-based organisation, have both thrown their weight behind the federal government’s announcement that it will create a new authority to help smooth the transition to renewables.
On Friday, the Albanese government announced the creation of the Net Zero Authority to “ensure the workers, industries and communities… can seize the opportunities of Australia’s net zero transformation”.
The role of the Net Zero Authority will be to:
- Support workers in emissions-intensive sectors to access new employment, skills and support as the net zero transformation continues.
- Coordinate programs and policies across government to support regions and communities to attract and take advantage of new clean energy industries and set those industries up for success.
- Help investors and companies to engage with net zero transformation opportunities.
General President of the Mining and Energy Union (MEU), Tony Maher described the Authority as a “game-changer” and said it would have workers’ backs at a time of rapid change in the energy sector.
“Workers in coal-fired power stations and associated coal mines are living with the reality that the timeline for closure of coal-fired power stations is accelerating,” Mr Maher said. “Until now, co-ordinated federal support for coal-power workers and communities has been the missing piece when it comes to climate and energy policy.
“[Friday’s] announcement means that the future of workers in emissions-intensive facilities facing closure won’t be simply left up to patchy employer programs and struggling local jobs markets.
“The Authority will have powers to support workers into new jobs and to facilitate investment in affected communities to create the good jobs of the future.”
Mr Maher said the design of the Net Zero Authority was based on extensive consultation with workers, unions and community representatives in energy regions already grappling with the massive changes caused by decarbonisation.
“The Government has listened and taken action to make sure that workers and communities reliant on emissions-intensive industries aren’t left to bear the brunt of national efforts to address climate change,” he said.
“We know from looking around the world energy transition can be done well or poorly, with consequent positive or devastating outcomes for energy-dependent regions.
“With [Friday’s] announcement, Australia is setting out on a path of doing energy transition well. The benefits of the Net Zero Authority will flow through our regional communities in terms of jobs, economic activity and positive social outcomes for generations.
“We look forward to contributing positively to the Authority’s work in the years ahead.”
The Authority also received the backing of the Climate Council of Australia, with CEO Amanda McKenzie praising the announcement as a chance for Australia to “grab hold” of the huge opportunities for clean, cheap energy and strong new growth industries as the world charges ahead on a trajectory to net zero.
“Last week the Liddell coal-fired power station went offline,” Ms McKenzie said. “The Victorian and Queensland Governments have announced their plans to fully exit coal power generation. It won’t be long before all coal is retired for good.
“Communities in regions where fossil fuels are being phased out and those in Renewable Energy Zones need a voice, clear plans and strong investment to guide the transformation of their local economies and industries. The National Net Zero Authority can provide important leadership and coordination for this shift.
“Australia’s global allies and trading partners are forging ahead with the transition to net zero and it makes perfect sense for Australia to get in the game,” Ms McKenzie said. “Taking strong action now is the best way to ensure Australia captures growing markets for clean energy and low emissions products, to power the next era of our national prosperity.
“There is no doubt Australia’s path to net zero requires transformative change. That is why the Climate Council has been advocating for a national authority to oversee Australia’s rapid clean energy transformation.
“The sense of momentum towards a clean future in Australia is inspiring. As well as Federal action, every Australian state and territory… is in a race to the front of the clean energy pack.”
Ms McKenzie said the Climate Council would like to see the National Net Zero Authority take an active role in coordinating realistic closure dates for all Australian coal-fired power generators. The Authority should also be planning for the broader, urgent phase down of fossil fuels like coal and gas across Australia as the supply of new renewable energy increases.
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