The Greens today called on government, industry and the community to work together on a long-term plan for winding down the Hunter’s coal industry.
“Present governments – local, state and federal – have their heads in the coal pile over this crucial issue for Australia and the Hunter,” Greens candidate for Newcastle John Sutton said.
“Such a plan might require an horizon of several decades, but is needed if the communities and workers who depend on coal mining and coal burning aren’t to be left in the lurch twenty to fifty years from now.
“Industry is obviously not able or willing to begin this crucial process. It’s a clear case where Governments need to show leadership.
“If we took the right approach now, we could turn the global challenge of climate change (and Australia’s international obligations under the Kyoto protocol and likely future international agreements) into an opportunity, rather than a problem, for the Hunter.
“Instead, governments are encouraging further economic and infrastructure development in the region’s coal industry (evidenced by the approval of massive coal loading facilities, new coal mines and new coal power stations).
Developing a long term phase-out plan means that governments would need to look beyond the usual three and four year election cycle planning horizons underpinning present approaches to policy.
“The coal industry today is in a similar position to the timber industry 30 years ago. It’s on notice that it’s unsustainable, and that it needs to develop meaningful strategies to diversify,” Mr Sutton said.
“The plan should begin by inviting environment groups, unions, economic development organisations, industry groups, councils, the University and relevant state and federal authorities in a discussion about long-term alternatives to coal, especially the possibilities of building on the region’s reputation in energy.