A long-awaited parliamentary report into the sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW has highlighted the critical need for government action to help coal-dependent communities adjust as the world shifts to a zero-carbon economy.
The report, released today, is based on the findings of an inquiry chaired by Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, which was established in 2019 in response to concerns communities in coal-dependent areas like the Hunter and Illawarra would face economic and social upheaval if governments failed to prepare for the inevitable global shift away from fossil fuels.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said she hoped the Berejiklian Government would take the findings of the report seriously, for the sake of the communities that had powered the state for generations.
“NSW owes a debt to places like the Hunter and the Illawarra, which have done the heavy lifting for so many years. We must ensure people living here are not left behind as the world shifts to a zero carbon economy,” she said.
“The time to act was yesterday. These shifts in the global economy are already taking place, with some of our largest trading partners like Japan and South Korea announcing plans to decarbonise.
“The inquiry found overwhelmingly that when structural changes like this occur, clear planning and involvement of the community is crucial.
“In fact, as the report shows, impacted communities need to drive the response, and the Premier and Deputy Premier need to give these communities the support necessary to prepare.
“The report also shows that there will need to be investment in skills and education to provide new opportunities for Hunter workers in the renewable energy sector. We welcome the inquiry’s focus on skills, community involvement and the needs of the mining and power industry workforce.
“We’re particularly pleased to see recommendations that focus on transparency, fairness and maximising the social and environmental benefits of renewable energy investment for mining communities." These include:
The Government should report to Parliament on the number of jobs created, and the development of NSW supply chains for the provision of renewable energy generation and transmission infrastructure and should consider a jobs guarantee proposal.
Mandating mine void rehabilitation will be important to provide regional economic stability.
The Government should appoint a coordinator to manage the development of energy transition plans for communities that will be impacted by the transition and provide funding for the Hunter Joint Organisation's proposed 2050 foundation.
That the NSW Government undertake work to remove barriers that prevent the development of a container terminal by the Port of Newcastle.
“We have a clear way forward, all we need now is for the government to act,” Ms Woods said.
The report is the outcome of a detailed inquiry into the sustainability of energy supply and resources in New South Wales, examining the capacity and economic opportunities of renewable energy, trends in energy supply and exports, their effects on regional communities, water security, the environment and public health, and options to support sustainable economic development in communities affected by changing energy and resource markets.
The inquiry was initiated in July 2019 but its finalisation was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, responses to which were added to its terms of reference.
During the time the inquiry has been underway, there have been major shifts taking place: the passage of NSW's Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020, the release of the NSW Government’s Future of Coal statement in August 2020, the release of the International Energy Agency's Net Zero 2050 Roadmap and most recently, the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report and the Government's announcement of the Royalties for Rejuvenation program.