Aerial view of Gladstone Power Station.
Aerial view of Gladstone Power Station.

‘Terminal decline’: Study says coal transition not a choice

A NEW study claims thermal coal production can be phased out over the next decade with minimal distribution to workers and regional communities.

Central Queensland is highlighted as one of the locations with residents whose livelihoods depend on coal mining, but the study argues a transition is coming regardless of whether Australia is prepared.

"The transition from coal is not, in the end, a matter of policy choice for Australia," states the Australia Institute study.

"Coal-fired electricity generation is in terminal decline globally.

"The only real choice is between a fair and orderly planned transition, including supports and protections for workers and communities affected by the change, and a policy of delay which will lead ultimately only to a chaotic collapse and more painful displacements."

The study, Getting Off Coal: Orderly, Early Transition to Minimise Impact for Australian Economy, was written by John Quiggin, professor of economics at the University of Queensland.

"Australia's transition away from excessive carbon pollution must begin with an urgent and co-ordinated phase-out of thermal coal production and use," Prof Quiggin said.

"Fortunately, with enough advance notice and an appropriate transition plan, the thermal coal industry can be phased out over time without any significant dislocation to workers.

"A well-planned and co-ordinated phase-out of coal would be based on targeted development of the renewable energy resources abundant in many coal-mining regions. It would include transition supports for early retirements, retraining for employees and economic diversification for affected communities."

The study argues coal-dependent communities will be better off under a proactive transition program compared with the alternative "business as usual" approach.

"Because of reliance on FIFO operations, only a small number of communities, mostly in Central Queensland, depend critically on coal mining to provide livelihoods for their residents," it states.

It said the phase-out can be achieved with a moratorium on new thermal coal mines, the closure of existing mines over the period to 2030 and the phased closure of coal-fired power stations over the same time frame.