The Turnbull Government must stop pumping public money into the dying coal industry and start planning for safe and just transitions for Australian communities.
The closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley this week is a further indication that Australia’s transition away from polluting coal is well underway – whether politicians acknowledge it or not. However, the longer politicians fail to acknowledge and plan for this transition the worse off Australian communities will be.

As the senate inquiry into the retirement of coal-fired power stations concluded this week, the Turnbull Government has been blasted for its lack of energy transition planning. According to The Climate Institute, the equivalent of one Hazelwood power station will need to close each year until 2035 in order for Australia to meet its commitments under the historic Paris Agreement on climate change [1].

As one of the dirtiest coal-fired power stations, the closure of Hazelwood is an important step forward in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. If we are to make the transition to renewable energy we cannot in good conscience do so at the expense of the people and communities who have already been most affected by the failure of legacy technologies.

A Greenpeace activist holds a banner reading "Coal is powering climate change" after having shut down a coal digger at Hazelwood, the developed world's most polluting coal power station. Greenpeace is demanding that Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd take real action on climate change by transitioning away from coal and choosing renewables as energy security.

A Greenpeace activist holds a banner reading “Coal is powering climate change” after having shut down a coal digger at Hazelwood, the developed world’s most polluting coal power station. IMAGE: Greenpeace

The Hazelwood mine fire in 2014 and Port Augusta’s recent fly ash crisis both highlight the serious threat coal poses to human health and our environment. Even after coal-fired power station close, a host of problems remain for the communities affected. We simply can’t afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. Comprehensive planning, support and environmental monitoring is needed to ensure that communities are not left behind. This requires the support of all levels of government and genuine community consultation processes.

There are 23 other coal-fired power stations currently operating in Australia – all of which will eventually close. The lack of planning and direction on a federal level to ensure safe and just transitions away from coal is creating uncertain futures for Australian communities.

Recent reports have shown the coal industry is both declining in support from the Australian public [2] and seeing less infrastructure growth on new coal projects internationally [3]. The Turnbull Government must turn its attention away from planning new coal projects and instead focus on planning for safe and just transitions for Australian communities towards a clean renewable energy future.

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