The Greens will turn to legislating a new energy transition authority when parliament resumes next month, with unions calling on the government to amend its climate change legislation to reflect workers’ concerns.
Greens Senator Benny Allman Payne, who comes from industry Queensland City of Gladstone, said the transitional authority will establish a framework to support communities affected by the transition to renewable energy.
“If the government and the Greens make serious progress on this issue over the next three years, the coalition’s climate scare campaigns will fall on deaf ears because the coal and gas communities will know their futures are being planned and their children will have a secure future.”
The legislation would create an independent statutory national energy transition authority that would plan and coordinate new opportunities for affected workers and advise the government, backed by a $2.8 billion 10-year fund to “diversify coal communities.”
At the September hearing, the Greens will provide notice of their intent to introduce the bill before the end of the year.
The Greens say the government has agreed in negotiations on a climate change bill to consider its proposal for a legal transition authority, which is also in line with unions’ demands that “fair transition” measures should be legislated.
Senate Committee on Government Examination Climate Change Bill This week it is due to release a report on its 43% emissions cut target, with the government keen to pass the bill through the Senate in September.
The government needs the support of the Greens and another independent senator to pass the bill through the Senate, and the Greens had already voted to support the legislation when the House passed it earlier this month.
However, unions have used the investigation to urge the government to review the law, saying it also needs to reflect Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement to account for the workforce’s impact of the transition away from a carbon-intensive economy.
The Paris Agreement Textagreed by Australia, obliges the 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 the progress of the Fair Transition as part of Australia revised pledge, Officially introduced by the Albanian government in June.
In its report to the investigation, the Australian Trade Union Council said that Australia does not currently have a formal policy or approach to a fair transition, citing the failure of the Morrison government to sign an international declaration on the matter, which was supported by the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada, European Union and New Zealand.
“These principles should address the impact of decarbonization on workers and society and the associated economic transformations that are already taking place and accelerating,” the ACTU report states.
She said 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 Professions Syndicate also targeted the bill’s “narrow focus,” saying it fell short of addressing concerns about social licensing needed to support the decarbonization mission.
“It is very important that this legislation sets out not only an emissions reduction target but also a guiding principle on how Australia can achieve it.”
ETU points to leading international examples where only transition packages have been made available, such as coal shutdown packages in Germany and Spain and the European Commission’s $246 billion Fair Transition Mechanism for coal regions.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Federation echoed these concerns. It claimed that its members would be most affected by the transition, warning that the lack of a clear legislative framework guiding restructuring “severely threatens the social license needed to achieve this goal.”