Principles for Meaningful Transition Support for Workers in Carbon-Intensive Industries

by Jim Stanford

As Australia and other countries shift their economies toward lower-carbon forms of energy and production, problems of displacement and transition for workers in carbon-intensive industries must be addressed as a top priority.  The coal-fired electricity generation industry is on the front lines of this challenge.

Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford was recently invited to give testimony to a Senate of Australia reference committee studying the future transition of the coal-fired electricity sector.

Offering meaningful and concrete job and income protection for workers in affected industries (like coal-fired power) is not only fair: after all, those workers should not bear disproportionate costs from policies that benefit broader society and the environment.  It is also politically important, because it refutes oft-made claims that environmental protection is incompatible with job security and economic prosperity.  Environmental advocates often speak of the need for a “just transition” for affected workers, although that idea is often described in broad, vague terms.  Developing specific, concrete programs to facilitate fair and effective employment transitions in carbon-intensive industries will be an important priority for the overall strategy to phase-out this highly-polluting energy form.

Dr. Stanford reviewed for the Senate committee the experience of employment transitions in other jurisdictions, and identified key principles for minimising the cost of those transitions for the affected workforce.

Full report