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NSW must heed coal decline warning and prepare for structural adjustment for mining communities

70% of Muswellbrook and Singleton residents want plan for a post-coal economy 

A new report showing a terminal future for thermal coal demand globally demonstrates a critical need for the NSW government to introduce an economic transformation plan for the Hunter region, according to Lock the Gate.

Published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the report New South Wales Thermal Coal Exports Face Permanent Decline: Grim Outlook Prompts the Need for a Planned Transition examines NSW coal export markets and forecasts of coal demand with global action to meet the Paris climate agreement goals.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said: “With the world turning to renewables and abandoning coal, the Hunter can no longer rely on thermal coal to be the backbone of its economy.”

The IEEFA report points to forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing global thermal coal trade volumes dropping 28% by 2025 and 59% by 2040 under its Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

The SDS presents a picture of what global energy would look like if Paris Climate agreement goals are met and air pollution reduced whilst also ensuring universal access to modern energy.

“The NSW Government says it is committed to the Paris agreement, but if that is genuinely the case, it must start preparing for a major contraction in the coal industry,” she said.

“Planning for a decline in coal is most desperately needed in the Hunter Valley, where up to a fifth of people currently rely on coal mining for their livelihoods.

“The NSW Government must develop a strong restructuring plan with financial support to diversify the Hunter’s economy and protect our existing agricultural industries,” she said.

Public support for change in the Upper Hunter is demonstrated by recent polling commissioned by Lock the Gate showing 70% of Singleton and Muswellbrook residents believe the region needs to prepare for a post-coal future and diversify its economy (1).

“Politicians promoting the expansion of coal mining are out of touch with people in the Hunter who understand how important it is to plan for the future,” Ms Woods said.

“The Hunter has been the engine room of NSW for decades. Now it’s time to give back and that starts with planning, and with sensible protections for agricultural land, so sustainable industries can grow.”

The report comes as the Independent Planning Commission prepares to make its final decision about a new coal mine in the Bylong Valley, opening it up to coal mining for the first time.

“If the NSW Government approves this mine, they’ll be eating away food and water security for the sake of an industry that must contract if we are to address climate change,” Ms Woods said.

“It makes no sense to jeopardise water security and cut open productive farmland at a time when thermal coal is in permanent decline.”

(1) Polling available on request

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