1. Congress recognises the importance of protecting Australia’s unique environment and heritage. The union movement has played a vital role in protecting Australia’s environment in the past and will continue to fight for the sustainability of our environment to protect our economy, societies and communities.
2. There are a range of threats to Australia’s environment, including to our land water and air quality, and Congress notes that climate change is one of the most pressing environmental matters ever confronted by our community.
3. Climate change is a serious threat to humanity and there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that human economic activity is the main contributor to global warming.
4. The ACTU supports the scientific independence of Australian climate change researchers. The ACTU urges governments to heed the scientific knowledge and address the gap between current climate action and the science.
5. The ACTU accepts that the cost of not reducing emissions is far higher than that of taking action. Decisive action to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, expand renewable energy capacity, and rapidly develop low carbon technologies while creating jobs is essential for continuing sustained economic growth globally and in Australia.
6. The international community has committed to limiting the rise in temperatures to no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels by 2050. This will require a reduction in emissions of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This target will require significant reductions in global emissions, and eventually require a net reduction in emissions to zero or below.
7. Australia must lead by example on this global commitment by remaining actively engaged negotiations at the international level while also enacting strong and ambitious targets at a domestic level.
8. If we act now, Australia will be at the forefront of the new clean energy industry, which will provide us with significant economic and environmental advantages. If we fail to act, however, we risk being left behind.
9. The Just Transition concept refers to the importance of taking a measured approach to restructuring to a lower carbon economy, and in particular ensuring that there are decent and good quality jobs available to workers in the new economy. All too often we see workers bear the brunt of shifts in industry and the economy, with mass redundancies the unfortunate result. The Just Transition framework seeks to lessen the impact on workers by ensuring that governments put in place policies that invest in new green technologies and skills, which can be used both to clean up existing industries and to open up opportunities in new industries.
10. Congress supports the ITUC’s call for a Just Transition that ensures:
a) equitable sharing of responsibilities and fair distribution of the costs: those who have contributed less to the problem should not bear the burden of the transition costs;
b) institutionalised formal consultations with relevant stakeholders including trade unions, employers and communities, at national, regional and sectoral levels;
c) the promotion of clean job opportunities and the greening of existing jobs and industries through public and private investment in low carbon development strategies and technologies in all nations and the appropriate educational qualifications that enhance workers’ capacity;
d) formal education, training, retraining, and life-long learning for workers, their families, and their communities;
e) organised economic and employment diversification policies within sectors and communities at risk;
f) social protection measures (active labour market policies, access to health services, social insurances, among others); and
g) respect for and protection of human and labour rights.
11. Australian unions are committed to working with the social welfare sector and the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries to ensure energy affordability for low income and working people.
12. The Just Transition framework should be explicitly addressed in Australia’s domestic policy measures and in any international agreements.
13. The ACTU calls for concerted national and international agreement and investment to avoid catastrophic climate change and to reduce emissions to levels recommended by the most recent scientific evidence.
14. Australia’s current target is a 5% reduction below 2000 levels by 2020, with the option to raise this to 15% or 25% dependent on the actions of other emitters. These targets are fast becoming outdated and Australia now needs to set new interim targets for the decades between 2020 and 2050.
15. Australia should take advice from the relevant scientific authorities and expert bodies when setting its post-2020 target. The target Australia sets should be comparable to that set by other developed nations and should be consistent with the goal of reducing Australia’s emissions by 80% below preindustrial levels by 2050.
16. Congress calls on the Australian Government to constructively engage in the United Nations negotiations to reach a global agreement on targets. The Government must make its targets known as soon as possible to provide certainty to business and the broader community on the size and scope of our long term de-carbonisation challenge and to support international efforts at developing a global policy architecture adequate to the task of limiting climate change.
MEASURES TO REDUCE EMISSIONS
17. Congress notes with disappointment the current Government’s decision to repeal the Clean Energy Future Package, which provided for a market-based carbon price and funding for industry investment. The repeal of this Package is a retrograde step that will make it far more difficult for us to reduce carbon emissions.
18. The Australian Government’s preferred approach to reducing emissions, Direct Action, has been a comprehensive failure, and as a result Australia is highly unlikely to meet its 5% target by 2020. This will make it yet more difficult to set ambitious targets into the future. Australia has a responsibility to set an ambitious target, but there is no point in setting a target if the policy measures put in place make it impossible to meet that target, as is obviously the case with the current Direct Action Policy.
19. A broad based Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), including transport and forestry and with a strong emissions reduction cap, is one of the essential tools to drive long-term structural changes in the Australian economy. A broad-based ETS that covers as much of the Australian economy as possible will ensure that the burden of emissions reductions is shared fairly among industry, workers, the government, and the broader community.
20. Congress supports the mandatory renewable energy target (MRET) of 20% by 2020 and calls for the necessary investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and low carbon technologies, and therefore new industries and jobs. We note that the bipartisan target of 33,000 gigawatt hours is the mandatory minimum target for renewable energy, but it is in the best interests of industries to exceed this target where possible through additional investment beyond the legislated minimum.
21. The Green Climate Fund to support developing countries to effectively respond to climate change has been operating successfully since its establishment at Durban in 2010. In order to finance the fund, we call on world leaders to commit public financing and support for innovative sources of finance for a Just Transition that genuinely deals with issues for social justice for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations. We welcome the news that Australia has now committed $200 million to this fund, which is a welcome backflip after the Abbott Government originally refused to support it.
22. Investment in climate change solutions will involve massive sums and should be benchmarked against ethical investment principles such as those promoted by the United Nations. Superannuation funds should be encouraged to invest in these areas, particularly in those that promote Australian industry, infrastructure and jobs.
23. Congress supports the negotiation of global sectoral agreements covering the world’s most emission-intensive industries so that inaction on emission reduction by one country does not assist in a trade advantage. With respect to forestry and agriculture, we call for an urgent process of measurement and the necessary resources to determine sectoral emissions and subsequent offsets for the sectors.
CLEAN ENERGY JOBS
24. Australian unions are committed to driving the shift to a low carbon economy by representing the interests of workers in carbon-intensive, trade-exposed industries, and supporting job growth and industry viability through private and public sector investment.
25. The private sector will need to change its practices and significantly invest in low carbon and clean energy technologies. However, we cannot rely solely on the private sector to invest at the necessary scale, in a sufficiently integrated fashion, or to ensure a Just Transition for workers. The government must outline its vision and set the direction through comprehensive industry policy that leads the way in investment of new technologies and industries.
26. Substantial public sector investment in freight and public transport infrastructure, building energy efficiency and the production of large-scale renewable energy is needed to shift to a low carbon economy.
27. The ACTU notes, however, that market measures alone are not sufficient to achieve the necessary environmental, social, and economic changes required. Consequently, in addition to an ETS, the Government must provide significant support for research and development, active industry policy and public investment, complemented by regulation where necessary. Such policy and investment should extend to the promotion of start-up ventures in sourcing clean energy, for example geothermal and tidal.
28. Congress calls on the Government to apply Australian Industry Participation (AIP) guidelines to projects funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
29. Congress calls on all governments to adopt procurement policies that promote local production of low carbon goods and services and impose competitive tendering which takes account of transport costs and energy inputs in imported products. Government must also accelerate investment in affected communities, including economic diversification plans.
SKILLS AND TRAINING
30. As Australia moves towards a clean energy future, this will require additional measures to assist the transition of people and skills between sectors and into emerging technology sectors, including through industry and workforce planning, development, skills and training. Care should be taken to minimise skills shortages that may emerge as a barrier to investment in new industries.
31. The ACTU will support training to make existing and new jobs environmentally sustainable.
32. While investment in the skills needed in a low carbon economy has begun, the Government must significantly increase up-skilling opportunities for existing workers and develop a comprehensive ‘workforce development plan’ for a low carbon economy.
33. It is vital that workers be engaged and empowered to make changes to energy and resource consumption patterns within their own workplaces.
34. The union movement is committed to empowering workers to participate in environmental campaigns and we are committed to representing workers’ interest in our policy and advocacy efforts.
35. Workers have a right to participate in the decision-making related to environmental concerns in their workplace, and to be represented through their elected Health and Safety Representative.
36. Australian unions will lead by example by ensuring our own workplaces reduce their environmental footprint.