Extreme weather, the early closure of coal plants, and a world moving to cut carbon emissions have shifted regional Australians' views on moving away from fossil fuels, a new report says.
Not-for-profit consultancy, The Next Economy, interviewed people from communities connected to the fossil fuel industry across Australia over the past year about managing the transition to net zero emissions.
That period was marked by fires and floods, an international climate change summit and the early closure of coal-fired plants in the NSW Hunter region and the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.
At the beginning of the research period, which involved 505 people including coal workers and academics, there was a level of scepticism about the transition.
"By the end of 2021, the overwhelming majority acknowledged that fossil fuel use would eventually be phased out and that Australia is shifting to renewable energy," the consultancy report said.
The report, entitled 'What the Regions Need on the Path to Net Zero', is based on a series of interviews and forums across several states to understand how to help mining and energy regions diversify their economies.
Various groups said the regions need fossil fuel workers to be adequately redeployed and land use conflicts need to be addressed.
State and federal governments should invest more in social infrastructure, like schools and hospitals, to attract energy companies and their workers.
But ongoing political debate and a lack of transparency are creating major barriers to change in the regions, the report found.
"Regional communities want to be involved in determining their future," one Hunter Valley community member told the researchers.
"We're not asking for handouts. We want the government to help us build sustainable, thriving and diverse regional communities."
Australian Associated Press
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