A Just Transition
Renewables have passed the point of no return and they will continue to advance. The technology's already there, we don't have to wait 20 years for it. We need a mechanism in place - a transition mechanism. We don’t want local communities to miss the opportunities by being locked into unsustainable coal.
- Graham Brown, retired coal-miner from the Hunter Region of NSW1
The challenge we face
We are living in a time of dangerous climatic change, where the existence of stable climatic systems is under threat from unsustainable human actions. There is an urgent need for communities and governments to prioritise scientific facts over political wrangling and to move towards a low-carbon future as soon as possible. With such a future within our grasp, Six Degrees is promoting a socially just and culturally appropriate transition to an alternative energy economy and working to transform the coal industry in Queensland into safer and more sustainable energy production.
A just transition: towards alternative economies
Six Degrees believes that Queensland and Australia must commence a just transition that links ecological sustainability with social justice and future employment opportunities. Richard Heinberg envisages this 'post-carbon society' to include reduced per capita resource usage in the minority world, renewable energy sources, emphasis on strong local economies rather than on a global free-market, and dramatically improved environmental conditions and social equity.
Climate change gives us an opportunity to transform our current unsustainable practices and renew social relations along with energy production. A shift to a renewable energy economy will create more empowered communities resilient to economic downturns. Centralised energy infrastructure like coal fired power plants requires massive investment in a single piece of industry, and often the whims of governments and corporations rule over the interests of affected communities. Renewables, on the other hand, operate from multiple sites and are often situated in isolated regional areas where investment is currently at a minimum.
A just transition hears and responds to the voices of those most at risk from climate change, often the most marginalised peoples on the planet. There is no real solution to climate change and its causes without recognising Indigenous Sovereignty as part of a just transition.
Roadmaps to a renewable future
Practically, and despite claims by certain groups including the coal industry, renewable energy has been shown to produce sufficient base and peak-load power to replace the entire fossil fuel industry. A just transition to a renewable energy economy is not only possible, but it is the most effective way that Australian manufacturing can be revitalized. The Australian Council of Trade Unions recognises the potential of a transition to renewables to create jobs in the development, installation and operation phases of the transition.
While we as communities can organise to achieve this transition at a local community level, if the Queensland Government's plans to double the state's coal output go ahead in tandem with the flawed CPRS, our efforts will be severely curtailed. Tackling climate change means we need coal subsidies, plants and mine approvals to stop, and for coal use to be replaced by renewable energy by 2020. The pathways to a renewable future have been mapped and are possible.
The Queensland and Australian Governments must realise that a just transition policy that overcomes the false job/environment dichotomy and recognises humans' role within the ecosystem is essential in averting catastrophic climate change.
Beware: false solutions ahead!
Solutions to climate change must be founded on critical questioning of our current unsustainable consumption and resource use. Technological band-aids such as carbon capture and storage are not commercially viable in the time we have to avoid the worst impacts of dangerous climatic change, nor do they address the underlying patterns of consumption that are fuelling this phenomenon. Despite such urgency, little is being invested in the renewables sector, and this has recently been withdrawn further as the government relies on its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to come up with the answers.
However, in consciously putting coal industry politics on the same level as objective climate science, the CPRS comes up woefully short of the targets and just process needed to move into a more ecologically sustainable era whilst ensuring social justice and continued employment opportunities.