– Lu Allan, Advocacy Manager, RE-Alliance.
As part of this week’s budget, the Federal Government announced the establishment of a Net Zero Authority for Australia. So what is it, and how can people benefit from it in the transition to renewable energy?
While there isn’t a lot of detail yet, we know the Net Zero Authority will support key regions in Australia transitioning out of coal to ensure workers don’t get left behind and to support new clean industries in those regions, giving families the certainty that there will be jobs and opportunities in their region for decades to come.
There is a strong precedent for a public Authority to support transitioning regions, with highly successful examples in Germany and Spain.
Through its Just Transition Institute, Spain has mobilised funding and established agreements and partnerships to support the regions closing coal, including funding for new industries, the rehabilitation of land degraded by mining activity, and guaranteeing support for mining workers opting to retire early.
Recent initiatives coordinated by Spain's Just Transition Institute
Another example close to home is the Latrobe Valley Authority, which was established in Gippsland, Victoria in 2016. This body has supported the Latrobe Valley by identifying and filling key gaps in skills training for renewable jobs and identifying new economic avenues for the region to grow.
RE-Alliance is a big supporter of this model and was one of many organisations and unions pushing for this federal body to be established over the last few years.
Karin Stark, founder of the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference and Narromine local, called the establishment of the Authority “a great step forward.”
The announcement of the Authority was a historic moment for Australia, with Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union Secretary Steve Murphy saying, “Right across the board, everyone is on the same page now.”
To ensure the Government can start work straight away, the Net Zero Authority will operate at first out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
There will be a process to identify how the Authority should be set up to support regions in the long term, and we’ll be watching closely to make sure it’s set up to prioritise the needs of workers and communities as a whole.
There are many regions in Australia, however, that aren’t transitioning away from fossil fuels, but are instead looking to how they can integrate renewable energy generation into their agriculture and service economies. In general, these communities care more about preserving and growing their existing economies and making sure renewables development works alongside agriculture and won’t disrupt it.
These regions could also use institutional support to decarbonise and coordinate industry in a way that improves local economies for local people. It would just look different to the way the Net Zero Authority is currently proposed. We will be interested to explore how the Net Zero Authority might be able to speak to this need.
To find out more about the Net Zero Authority go to: https://www.pmc.gov.au/news/new-national-net-zero-authority