The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called on the government to initiate the process of aiding thermal power plant workers to transition to a clean energy society.

The council has produced a paper requesting a planned closure of coal-fired power stations – along with both a jobs and energy plan for the country – that would “create a more prosperous and diversified economy”.
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As part of the process it recommended the setting up of an independent statutory body, Energy Transition Australia (ETA), to oversee an orderly move to a cleaner energy future.

Ged Kearney, president of the ACTU, said “We’re not experts in climate change, but what’s obvious to the ACTU is they (coal power plants) are going to close. They already are closing around us.”|

The move comes days after the announcement of the closure of Hazelwood coal-fired power plant in Victoria.

The ACTU discussion paper, titled “Sharing the challenges and opportunities of a clean energy economy”, acknowledged Australia’s current emission cuts planned for 2030 would need to be strengthened in order to meet commitments made in Paris to keep global warming “well below” 2C.

The paper argues that while the country needs to ensure the transition happens, the costs of that transition should not fall predominantly on the shoulders of workers on those industries, but rather be equitably shared across society.

Among the other recommendations is for a labour adjustment package that would support workers finding new jobs with job services, retraining, financial and personal support, and travel subsidies and relocation assistance

The union also calls for fossil subsidies to be used to finance the transition along with mnies from state budgets and the possibility of workers being re-trained to work within the renewables sector.

The intervention from the ACTU marks a powerful coalition between the environment movement and the union movement that have traditionally been at odds.