The Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia is one of the world’s climate change hot-spots. It is where 40% of Australia’s electricity is generated from five coal-fired power plants, and is the source of 100 million tonnes of black coal exported annually to the global markets. A growing number of local residents of the Hunter Valley are questioning the sustainability of the region’s coal dependent economy because of its harmful local ecological and social impacts and its contribution to global warming. Environmental organisations and some labour unions have identified the need for a ‘just transition’ to clean, renewable energy-based economies at local, national and global scales to respond to these threats. A just transition is a process of economic restructuring from unsustainable economies towards ecological and social sustainability while creating new Green Jobs and supporting people and communities who might be disadvantaged during the change process. This article considers the potential for a just transition in the Hunter Valley with respect to coal mining, the export coal industry and domestic power generation. Attention is given to potential for common ground among key labour unions, environmentalists and local residents, and to the critical role of government intervention for a successful just transition process.

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