The ongoing speculation that the Hazelwood coal plant will shut down has resulted in the Latrobe Valley community unfairly suffering the threat of unemployment and disruption for too long.
News that Premier Daniel Andrews will personally oversee a taskforce to plan for the Latrobe Valley’s future, which could be known as early as this week, is welcome. Though, hopefully not too late to adequately ensure a smooth industry transition for the region.
Switching off Hazelwood will have an upside.
Phasing out the fine particulate and other pollution from the mining and burning of coal will reduce illness and save lives. Pollution from coal burning contributes to the reduced life expectancy of residents in the Latrobe Valley compared with those in other regions in Gippsland and Victoria overall. Children in the Latrobe Valley are below the state average in key areas of health.
Burning coal is also a major driver of climate change which is already affecting us and we need to take action now- starting with Hazelwood which is the most carbon polluting power station in the country.
Just this week, the CSIRO and Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued their State of the Climate Report for 2016. This report highlights the continued increase in surface air and sea temperatures; the longer fire seasons; the duration, frequency and intensity of extreme heat events; and the rise in surrounding sea levels which amplifies the effects of high tides and storm surges.
However Australia, with the highest emissions per capita in the developed world, is currently seeing its emissions increase even further.
If we do not act, Australia will completely fail in its obligations under the Paris Agreement of 2015 to reduce carbon emissions.
We must contribute our part of the global response to keep average temperature increase below 2 degree Celsius which is necessary to avoid accelerating climate change.
Australia with its ample supply of wind and solar has every reason to move towards clean energy, which has no adverse health outcomes.
Despite the clear public benefits, the powerful coal industry and its supporters ignore the evidence and continue peddling hazardous fossil fuel for short-term financial gain.
There are repeated claims that there would be insufficient power should “the sun not shine and the wind not blow”.
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