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We Don't Have To Choose Between Jobs And Clean Energy

Why don't we have both?

27/10/2016 1:54 PM AEDT | Updated 27/10/2016 1:54 PM AEDT
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"Australia can create a million extra jobs by 2040 by pursuing credible, enduring policies on climate change."

With the imminent closure of Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley and the shutdown of the Port Augusta power station in South Australia earlier this year -- both citing old, heavily polluting infrastructure and outdated technology -- it is becoming clear many of Australia's fired power stations will be replaced with renewable alternatives in the coming decades.

This will need to occur with the least disruption to workers' lives and to the communities in which they live. However, it's not only about the lifespan of the facilities.

Serious investment in clean energy, public transport, energy efficiency and battery storage is urgently needed to ensure a transition that cuts pollution and provides meaningful jobs for Australian workers. The earlier a planned transition starts, the less disruption communities and workers will be subject to.

The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have joined forces to produce Jobs in a clean energy future -- because it is important to remember Australians should not have to choose between jobs and cutting pollution.

This report shows the idea that Australia has to pick between jobs and cutting pollution is a false and destructive choice. We can make positive economic decisions that support life and community in Australia. The evidence is clear that action on climate change can be directed in a way that is beneficial for the Australian economy. We can grow the economy and make Australia a cleaner and healthier place to live.

The report finds Australia can create a million extra jobs by 2040 by pursuing credible, enduring policies on climate change and energy. This can happen through direct government investment and encouraging private investment in clean energy and battery storage, energy efficiency, public transport, electric vehicle and other mechanisms.

The technology and investment is leaping ahead. Since 2010 -- the last time ACTU and ACF collaborated on a research report -- the cost of clean energy technology has dramatically fallen. For example, the cost of solar cells has dropped by 75 percent. Hundreds of billions in private investment is being mobilised in the global transition.

The Australian government made a commitment in Paris with 174 other countries. The Paris commitment means the way Australia produces and uses energy is going to have to change. This transition will require government and private investment.

The Federal Government has an important role to play by directly investing and creating policies that encourage private investment in infrastructure. This is vital in order to meet the commitments Australia and many other countries signed onto in Paris in December – and that come into effect next week when the Paris climate Agreement takes effect.

A 'just transition' will see communities and workers in areas such as Victoria's Latrobe Valley empowered well ahead of time to determine the future direction for their communities before coal fired power stations begin closing.

This needs the support of all levels of government to help workers retrain and build up existing industries and attract new industries.

The alternative is what we have currently: Australia failing to reduce its emissions while coal fired power stations close on short notice with workers and communities left in the lurch and unsure about what their future holds.

Just look at what happened in South Australia earlier this year when 400 people lost their jobs when the Northern Power Station closed after less than a year's notice. Currently residents of Victoria's Latrobe Valley are in a tense state of waiting to hear news from Europe confirming the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station.

Unions and environmentalists are not alone in calling for a planned transition. Energy companies, policy analysts, economists and industry groups are all also calling for better planning. Our report maps out a better future for Australia -- one with a cleaner environment and more jobs.

With government leadership through policy, investment and planning, Australia's cities, towns and regions can be more liveable, smarter and healthier places to live.

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