The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to make this submission to the Standing Committee on Environment and Energy. This brief submission concentrates on the issue of particular concern to workers and their unions: the need for a just transition to ensure protections for Australian workers and their communities as we respond to the climate crisis through the decarbonisation of the economy.

We see this Bill as an important opportunity to break the policy deadlock on climate change in Australia. Critically, the ACTU notes that the Bill does not include just transition or social license issues. There is an opportunity to amend the Bill to cover just transition and social licence issues, but should these issues not be considered within the Bill’s scope, they will need to be urgently and comprehensively addressed by the Government in the near term, with a consistent, whole-of-Government approach to ensure that emissions reduction measures are delivered in an equitable way to protect workers and their communities, via another legislative framework that ensures consistency and enforceability. 

This should include the establishment of a national Energy Transition Authority, as well as the inclusion of Just Transition principles, per the Paris Agreement, in the objects and functions of the Climate Change Authority and the relevant Government entities and legislation included in the Consequential Amendments Bill.

The ACTU understands that the proposed Bill seeks to legislate emissions reduction targets, to require annual reporting to Parliament on progress towards these targets, and to task the Climate Change Authority with the provision of independent advice on progress towards and revision of targets. A second Bill of Consequential Amendments enshrines the targets in the statutory objects of fourteen government entities with roles to play in reaching those targets. However, the Bill’s narrow focus means that it does not address just transition issues directly. Just transition objectives will need to be embedded in the work of these entities, particularly to support the establishment and effective functioning of an Energy Transition Authority. The Parliament must also appreciate that an expansion in remit for the Climate Change Authority and other government entities requires a commensurate increase to resourcing in order to facilitate the work required.

The ACTU acknowledges the importance of the proposed 2030 emission reduction target as a floor on ambition, rather than a ceiling, and supports the option for improved emissions targets in the future. Similarly, the ACTU acknowledges the importance of transparent, credible reporting to Parliament to ensure integrity in the response to climate change and in emissions reduction strategies.

The ACTU welcomes the legislation of Australia’s increased emissions reduction targets, however, believes that just transition principles should be applied to the process undertaken for achieving those targets. These principles should address the worker and community impacts of decarbonisation and the associated economic transitions that are already underway and accelerating.