Countering Canberra’s fossil-backed call for a gas-powered pandemic recovery plan, the Australian lobby group Beyond Zero Emissions has mapped a solar- and wind-powered path to the swift creation of one million green jobs across the energy, manufacturing, and building sectors.
Released in the wake of recent reports that 800,000 Australians lost their jobs to pandemic-related restrictions in April and May, the plan would see “as many as 150,000 jobs created in building out solar and wind capacity as well as transmission infrastructure; 250,000 opportunities in modernizing and expanding the manufacturing sector; and 300,000 to create three million ‘Zero Energy Bill’ buildings,” writes Bloomberg Green. Electrifying transportation, land restoration projects, and concerted efforts to improve recycling would bring yet more Australians back into the work force.
Underpinned by the principle of climate justice, the green lobby group’s plan deliberately addresses job creation in both Australia’s beleaguered industrial heartlands and its rural communities, many of which have been hard hit by drought and bushfires.
Meanwhile, the commission appointed to plot the country’s recovery from COVID-19 is voicing support for Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s call to fuel Australia’s pandemic recovery with natural gas. The commission panel, which is facing criticism for being rather flush with pro-gas executives, is still in deliberation.
Regardless of its composition, Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is urging the commission to understand that this moment of pandemic recovery may well represent Australia’s “last chance” to awaken to the realities of “where the economy and energy in Australia, and especially where exports, need to go.”
Meanwhile, DB Santasalo—a century-old industrial gear systems engineering company based in Wollongong, New South Wales—is becoming increasingly alert to such realities, reports Al Jazeera.
While the company’s Wollongong factory remains focused on building and repairing gear boxes for the mining sector, 10% of its business now involves fixing wind turbines. It expects that proportion to double in the next four years.
“We see renewables as an important part of Australian industry. We know it’s growing. And we want to be there to support it,” said Dean Leydecker, a spokesperson for DB Santasalo, which is an important employer in the industrial east coast city.
But such corporate ambitions to seize the opportunities of the low-carbon transition are being held back, said Arthur Rorris, a union leader with the South Coast Labour Council. He sees a “policy vacuum” in Australia that is afflicting its response to energy questions and the climate crisis alike. “It’s letting down the environment as much as its letting down our coal miners,” he told Al Jazeera.
Chris Briggs of the Sydney-based Institute for Sustainable Futures agrees. “Renewables can play a meaningful role in providing alternative employment, but only within a wider industry development plan that diversifies these regions in a range of different industries,” he said.