The Greens would demand $1bn to help workers and communities transition away from coal mining, export and power production, making a shift to renewable energy jobs central to climate negotiations with Labor.
The Greens’ “Just Transition” policy mirrors Labor’s in its call for a new federal authority to manage the decline of coal jobs, but the Greens will pair a more ambitious timeline to phase out coal with demands to do more to move workers into renewable energy industries.
On Thursday the Australia Institute will also publish an open letter signed by 62 scientists and experts calling on the next government and parliament to make urgent action on climate change a top priority.
Labor and the Greens are publicly at odds about the contours of climate change negotiations in the event of a Labor victory, with Richard Di Natale urging Labor to the table and Bill Shorten warning Labor will “listen” but run its own race.
The Greens want to set a 2030 deadline to end thermal coal exports and shut down Australia’s fleet of coal-fired power stations; Labor believes the closure of coal power stations is “inevitable” but has no policy to end coal exports.
The Greens want a new federal authority – Renew Australia – to manage a just transition from coal to renewables, with a mandate to include “the creation of new jobs in clean energy”.
The Greens believe a 100% renewable energy mix will help create 180,000 jobs, including 55,030 in New South Wales, 42,035 in Victoria and 47,570 in Queensland, and a further 8,000 in mine rehabilitation.
A $1bn fund would help tens of thousands of workers currently engaged in thermal coal mining, exports and power production, it said, by paying for retraining and relocation costs.
Labor has allocated $15m over four years to create a Just Transitions Authority, which will plan for economic diversification, labour adjustment packages and pooled redundancy schemes to allow displaced workers to transfer to nearby power stations or coal mines.
Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, personally opposes the Adani Carmichael coalmine, arguing there is no case for a new coalmine, but Labor has refused to commit to review the mine’s environmental approvals.
Di Natale told Guardian Australia that “coal doesn’t have a long-term future, that is absolutely clear”.
“We know that the mining, burning and exporting of coal has to stop if we’re going to address dangerous climate change,” he said. “The only question is whether the transition is managed in a planned, empowering way that protects workers, their families and communities or leaves the fates of our coal communities to be decided in the boardrooms of multinational corporations.
“That’s why our Just Transition for coal workers plan will be one of the first things the Greens bring up in any negotiations with a future Shorten Labor government on climate change.
“Looking after our coal communities during the transition away from fossil fuels is a top priority for the Greens.”
The Australia Institute letter is signed by Nobel prize-winners Peter Doherty AC and Sue Wareham, former Australian of the year Fiona Stanley, former chief scientist Penny Sackett and many of Australia’s leading scientists from disciplines including climate change, health, economics, energy and finance.
“Climate change is an enormous threat to the security and wellbeing of all Australians,” said Richie Merzian, the climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute.
“However you assess the fairness of a country’s emissions reduction target: by population, economic cost, or a combination, Australia Institute analysis shows Australia’s current reduction target is unambitious, unfair and irresponsible.”
Labor aims to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, while the Greens want Australia to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.
In rebuffing Di Natale’s offer to negotiate a new climate package after the election, Shorten accused the Greens of “[stuffing] up climate change in the 43rd parliament by their terms” and “[costing] us action on climate change in 2009” when the Greens refused to support Kevin Rudd’s proposed emissions trading scheme.
Di Natale has flagged the Greens will pressure Labor “to be as ambitious as it possibly can be” on emissions reduction.
The Greens are also pressuring Labor on land clearing and habitat protection by promising two new environmental agencies.
Labor has also promised an Environmental Protection Agency but provided no details about its design and powers beyond a budget of $30m over three years from 2020-21. The Greens have budgeted a total of $600m over four years.