Yes, jobs will be lost in coal mining, in coal-fired power generation and across a host of fossil-fuelled activities in transport, mining and agriculture. But studies have shown how the jobs prospects in renewables easily exceed current employment in coal mining and coal-fired power.
The key point is that transitions to renewables in energy and across all sectors must be planned and managed to support workers and local economies and communities. I was appalled that Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria and Northern in Port Augusta, South Australia, were simply closed, with no effective transitions put in place for those workers and communities, and only dubious commitments on power supply and cost.
Government has a clear responsibility to lead these transitions; to work collaboratively with households, consumers, unions, businesses and communities to ensure that as one door closes another opens. Workers may need to be relocated, retrained or retrenched, with family and community support.
It is not only the power industry and the communities that rely on it that need to transition. As a nation, we need to move away from fossil-fuel driven vehicles to electric- or hydrogen-powered ones. The agriculture industry needs to embrace regenerative practices (which can be net negative in emissions). We need to rethink our building codes and materials and our industrial processes and consider initiatives like green steel and cement.
Given the penchant of our politicians to play politics rather than govern, perhaps we need an independent, bipartisan, properly funded Climate Transition Authority to plan and lead our country away from fossil fuels and into a future based on renewable energy and low emissions practices.
And as to the “visual impact” of renewable projects, perhaps someone ought to show Joyce an aerial photo of an open-cut coal mine in the Hunter for proper comparison.
John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford school of public policy at the Australian National University and a former Liberal opposition leader.