Education crucial to just transition to green economy

Making sure education authorities can provide workers with the right skills to participate in the transition to a net zero economy is crucial.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil addressed the National Press Club on 28 March, to urge the government to adopt a National Energy Transition Authority (NETA), which she said is the missing piece in Australia’s climate and energy policy and must be delivered in the May budget.

A NETA would coordinate across governments, departments, industry and communities to make sure no worker or community is left behind in the nation’s energy transition to net zero.

An independent tripartite authority, it would support workers through comprehensive packages that include pooled redundancy and employment schemes, education, training, income replacement and retirement plans.

The authority would collaborate with Jobs and Skills Australia and the relevant Jobs and Skills Councils to develop new education and training packages, and support new educational institutions as needed, to meet the workforce demands of new industries established in energy regions.

“Decarbonising our economy could generate hundreds of thousands of good jobs, healthier and more equitable communities, and a renewed national prosperity. We need to capture these opportunities, especially in communities where there are planned closures of facilities and businesses,” O’Neil said.

“An independent, statutory National Energy Transition Authority will ensure the shift to renewable energy happens with workers, not to workers, and delivers good jobs and economic opportunity.

“The Authority must be informed by the voices of workers and communities. We do not have to choose between climate action and jobs – it’s our responsibility to act on both,” O’Neil said.

IEU Secretary Mark Northam, who attended the Press Club, said the IEU supports a just and fair transition to net zero for all workers.

‘Communities deserve a fair transition,” he said.

“The government should consult with the IEU and other teacher unions about how the required skills training could be emphasised into the school curriculum and how teachers could be supported.

“Schools, TAFE and universities will have to work in tandem to ensure the transition is supported in educational terms,” Northam said.