Australia has a bright climate future and unions are ready to make it happen

Published: 23/08/2022
Category: Industrial Relations
Published: 23/08/2022
Category: Industrial Relations

There is a bright future ahead for workers in Australia and now is the moment to secure it.  

A new report from the Australian Council of Trade Unions highlighted the “tremendous” opportunity for our wind, wave and sun-rich country.   

The report, ‘Secure Jobs for a Safer Climate’, showed how Australia can make the most of its advantageous position to become a renewables superpower.  

The report explained, “To seize this chance worker’s voices need to be central in all discussions and decisions made on the transition.” 

“This includes ensuring workers in emissions intensive industries are supported, and that all workers impacted by climate change are also supported through higher wages, better conditions and improved health and safety measures.”

Urgent progress needed after a chaotic decade

According to Australian Council of Trade Unions President Michele O’Neil, we are at a turning point for working Australians in the move to net zero emissions after almost a decade of inaction.  

“Workers lost jobs, opportunities were ignored, and Australia became a climate laggard after years of climate inaction and chaos from the Coalition Government. Now we must make up for lost time, work together and plan ahead,” she said.  

Climate change is already with us, with workers across all industries suffering the health impacts of extreme heat and climate related disasters, while dealing with the rising cost of living due to crop and land degradation – there needs to be a mitigation and adaptation plan from the government.

Michele O’Neil
ACTU President

Michele O'Neil  -  ACTU President

We have already experienced a taste of what our future will look like unless we act immediately.  

The floods on the Australian east coast this year were one of the most extreme disasters in our history. Many were surprised with the speed and severity of the emergency and emergency services performed a record number of rescues. 2019 saw devastating fires. Vast parts of Queensland are drought declared. 

But the report warned that if we fail to mitigate the effects of climate change, crises like these are unlikely to be one-off events.  

Workers in unions show leadership

Michele O’Neil emphasised the importance of making sure “no worker or region is left behind.” 

“Australia is the best placed country in the world to be a renewable energy superpower, generating 395,000 jobs and $89 billion in revenue by 2040. We can get there by unions, government, business, and climate organisations working together,” O’Neil said.  

The ACTU paper outlined the ways in which climate change threatens the health and safety and job security of workers identifying extreme heat, degraded air quality, psychological stress and job losses due to climate-related damage as major concerns.  

These threats will have a direct impact on workers which why the report made clear that it is crucial for workers to have a voice at the table.  

An equitable approach to net zero will mean ensuring workers in energy industries are supported by employers as well as support workers who are most affected by the immediate response to environmental changes (including in the service and caring industries).  

This transition needs to genuinely engage workers all the way. With marginalised communities at increased risk, workers in unions have a crucial role to play in the policy decisions of our collective future.    

Whether it be through introducing climate disaster leave as a workplace entitlement or providing essential support to communities on the frontline of climate disaster, workers in unions have stepped up to the challenge.  

If you want to see change, together, we can take action to drive that change. Union members are building a bright, sustainable Australia, now and for the future.  

Let’s take real action together

Australia has a bright climate future and unions are ready to make it happen

Australia has a bright climate future and unions are ready to make it happen