30 October 2018

On climate, civil organisations lead where governments fear to tread

Environment groups and unions are stepping in to provide the leadership on climate change and energy sector transition that state and federal Coalition government are failing to provide.

“The Nature Conservation Council applauds the CFMMEU’s effort to map a just transition for workers as we move away from coal and gas to clean energy sources,” said NCC Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner Dr Brad Smith.

“We have been calling on the Coalition government for several years to start planning for the transition to ensure workers and communities in the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Lithgow are not left behind.

“It is a sad indictment of the Coalition government’s failure in NSW that unions, environment groups and other civil organisations are forced to take the lead on these issues.

“It is the government’s responsibility to coordinate society’s response to the challenges and opportunities the clean energy transition presents.

“Inexplicably, the O’Farrell, Baird and Berejiklian governments have all been missing in action. They have had almost eight years to develop a plan, but still they have nothing.

“It’s not just the impact of unplanned coal closure on these communities that concerns us.

“The Berejiklian government is ill prepared to deal with the industrial-scale toxic legacy these large polluting facilities will leave for future generations to manage.

“Local communities and taxpayers must not be left to clean up the mess that coal-fired power stations have created over decades.”

Dr Smith said that in Australia, 5.8 million tonnes of coal ash was disposed of in 2014-15, about 22% of all waste disposed in Australia. [1]

Coal ash was the third largest waste stream behind construction and demolition waste (7.1 Mt) and municipal waste (6.5 Mt).

“Many coal ash dams are unlined, leach toxins, and will be an expensive toxic legacy that taxpayers will have to pay to manage for generations,” Dr Smith said.

“Working families and communities living near coal power stations will pay the cost if we don’t develop a plan to deal with these issues in a responsible and timely manner now.”


[1] Australian National Waste Report 2016, Department of the Environment and Energy & Blue Environment Pty Ltd, Page 15


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