As the world Shifts to renewable energyIt is becoming more urgent to help communities that have relied on fossil fuels for their jobs.
The 2015 Paris Agreement notes the imperative of a “just transition” for affected workforces, with “the creation of decent work and quality jobs” to replace those lost.
Trade unionists are This point can be arguedAt least for several decades. The first use of the phrase “just transition” attributed to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which called for a “Just Transition Program” for workers in the logging industry 1996.
Despite all the talk, there is still very little to no action.
Three clear priorities for policy makers, however, have emerged from Australia’s Hunter Valley region, where coal mines Employ approximately 14,000 workersDirectly and indirectly, thousands more. These are:
- The need for a local coordination authority
- funding for a “flagship” job-creation project, and
- More resources for technical and vocational education
These priorities were identified by consultations that were held in late 2021 between two community organizations. Hunter RenewalAnd Hunter Jobs Alliance. They did this in response to the NSW government’s announcement of A$25 million per year to a Royalties for Rejuvenation Fond.
The fund is meant to “ensure coal mining communities have the support they need to develop other industries in the long-term”.
But how can you spend your money wisely
314 people participated in the consultations, ranking 22 ideas based on previous work. Workshop discussions were attended by about one-third of participants. The rest contributed via a survey.
The top three priorities are the need for self-determination, allowing local communities to decide on which solutions are best and how to implement them, not a “cookie-cutter” approach imposed from the top.
One participant in a workshop said it this way:
Participating in the design of the change is key. It will not succeed if you don’t bring the locals along on the journey so they can make the changes.
1. A local coordinating body
Local coordination is important to ensure solutions reflect a community’s needs, skills and opportunities.
Victoria’s state government established the Latrobe Valley Authority2016: After the sudden announcement of the closure The Hazelwood power plant2017
Beginning with $270 million in funding, the authority is headquartered in Morwell, in the heart of the Latrobe Valley’s coal-mining industry.
This means that those who work for the authority are familiar with the region and can get in touch with the various stakeholders from industry and education who help inform it. “Smart Specialisation”Approach to identify local strengths, and competitive advantages
A local authority can also coordinate with other authorities to ensure fossil fuel communities aren’t competing against each other by pursuing to create jobs in the same new industries.
Hazelwood’s closing calls for a rethink of Latrobe Valley solutions
2. Fund flagship job-creation initiatives
Flagship projects are a tangible way to move forward and provide hope for the future.
Collie, in Western Australia, is a prime example. It involves researchers from universities, government, and industry working together. A project to make “Colliecrete”, a more sustainable form of concrete made from fly-ash, a waste product from the burning of coal by the local coal-fired power stations.
According to The Hunter Valley Power Stations, the imitation of this plan using waste flyash could create 3,000 permanent full time jobs in NSW. A reportHunter Community Environment Centre has commissioned the publication.
How to make cement that is environmentally friendly: Greening the concrete jungle
3. Expand vocational training
Retraining is vital for new industries to flourish and for workers looking to find new jobs.
A 2020 reportAccording to the Clean Energy Council, a shortage of experienced and skilled staff is hindering the development of renewable energy industries. The report recommended the entire vocational educational system needs reviewing, because “existing training systems are not meeting industry needs”.
Indeed, the Hunter region is home to Closures at TAFEThese are happening at a moment when they should be expanding.
It was a workshop participant who put it (with great understatement):
It is difficult when funding continues to be cut.
Think local, act local
Local communities understand the transition away from economic reliance on fossil-fuel industries can’t happen overnight. They want to move.
These priorities, identified by the NSW Hunter Valley coal-mining communities, offer lessons for Australia and the rest of the world.
Four lessons from Australia about how to transition away from coal
What’s important is that local communities take the leading role in defining their challenges, and then addressing them.
People who live in communities know the best about it and what is possible. All you have to do is ask.