The Greens will move to legislate a new energy transition authority when parliament resumes next month, as unions call on the government to amend its climate change legislation to reflect the concerns of workers.
The Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne, who comes from the industrial Queensland city of Gladstone, said a transition authority would put in place a framework to support communities affected by the transition to renewable energy.
“If the Government and Greens make serious progress on this issue over the next three years, Coalition climate scare campaigns will fall on deaf ears because coal and gas communities will know their future is being planned for and that their children will have a secure future. ”
The legislation would establish an independent statutory national energy transition authority that would plan and coordinate new opportunities for affected workers and provide advice to government, backed by a 10-year $2.8bn fund for “diversifying coal communities”.
In the September sitting fortnight, the Greens will give notice of their intention to introduce the bill before the end of the year.
The Greens say the government agreed in negotiations over the climate change bill to consider its proposal for a statutory transition authority, which is also in line with union demands for “just transition” measures to be legislated.
A Senate committee examining the government’s climate change bill to legislate a 43% emissions reduction target is due to report this week, with the government keen to pass the bill through the Senate in September.
The government needs the support of the Greens and one other independent senator to pass the bill through the Senate, and the Greens have already voted in support of the legislation when it passed the lower house earlier this month.
However, unions have used the inquiry to urge the government to revise the bill, saying it needs to also reflect Australia’s commitments under the Paris agreement to take into account the impact of transitioning away from a carbon intensive economy on the workforce.
The text of the Paris agreement, agreed to by Australia, binds signatories to consider “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.
Australia will be required to report on its just transition progress as part of Australia’s revised pledge, which the Albanese government formally submitted in June.
In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions said Australia currently has no formalised policy or approach to a just transition, pointing to the Morrison government’s failure to sign an international declaration on the matter, which was backed by the UK, US , Canada, the European Union, and New Zealand.
“These principles should address the worker and community impacts of decarbonisation and the associated economic transitions that are already under way and accelerating,” the ACTU submission states.
It argued that if these issues are not considered within the bill, they will need to be “urgently and comprehensively addressed by the Government in the near term” in a separate legislative framework.
The Electrical Trades Union has also taken aim at the bill’s “narrow focus”, saying it falls short of addressing concerns over the social licence needed to underpin the decarbonisation task.
“It is incredibly important for this legislation to set out not only the emission reductions target but also the guiding principle on how Australia will meet it.”
The ETU points to leading international examples of where just transition packages have been provided, such as coal closure packages in Germany and Spain and the European Commission’s $246bn just transition mechanism for coal regions.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union echoed these concerns. It claimed its members would be most affected by the transition, warning that the lack of a clear legislative framework guiding the restructure “seriously risks the social licence that will be needed to achieve this target”.