A survey of unionists in the heart of Australia's coal regions shows strong sentiment for action to stop climate change. The poll, commissioned by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), surveyed 400 AMWU members in the Bowen Basin, Gippsland, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.
According to the AMWU website, the poll showed more than 90% were concerned with the impact of climate change on their children and the natural world, and more than 65% were concerned about their jobs. While 62% supported exempting energy-intensive industries from emissions trading, 88% believed those industries should be included if the government invests in new manufacturing development in communities reliant on such industries. Sixty-three percent even thought government action on climate change should occur "even if it means higher energy prices for business and households".
"The Federal Government must ensure there is direct investment in communities that may be affected by moves to reduce greenhouse emissions to stimulate job creation in less carbon intensive industry," AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver said on July 31.
"We need an ambitious mandatory renewable energy target, and a major proportion of revenue generated by a national emissions trading scheme must be directed into development of new renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing projects. If we leave things only to market mechanisms we know workers will suffer and Australia will miss the opportunity to refresh our manufacturing sector", Oliver continued.
The AMWU national conference on July 27-30 released a paper outlining its blueprint for sustainable manufacturing in Australia. According to the AMWU website's summary, the paper supports measures such as:
•an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) "supportive of aggressive cuts to emissions";
•investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency industry support programs in areas that rely on greenhouse intensive industry using revenue from the ETS, including re-skilling and other material support for "workers, communities and industries" affected by these measures;
•consideration of a carbon tariff on imports to encourage other nations to adopt greenhouse reduction measure;
•conversion and expansion of Australia's car industry to manufacture reduced emission vehicles; and
•amending the laws to allow environmental clauses in workplace agreements.
AMWU members' concern about climate change is not restricted to the coal regions. Prior to the national conference, the union's Victorian state conference had a lively debate over a motion submitted by the Melbourne northern suburbs delegates' committee addressing the union's position on climate change. Debate went so long that the item was referred to State Council for further discussion and amendment.
The final version resolved that "the AMWU pledges to involve itself in the campaign to stop global warming".
The resolution criticised "clean coal" (carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS), describing it as "experimental technology, not proven anywhere on a commercial scale. The AMWU is sceptical about the potential of CCS to reduce emissions in the next 20 years as scientists say we must".
While willing to support clean coal if it is shown to work, the resolution demanded that "any research and development initiatives should be predominately funded by private industry and openly monitored/audited by the relevant government body and stakeholders".
The Victorian resolution, like the national resolution, was also skeptical of emissions trading, noting that "the market, without strong intervention by governments around the globe, will not reduce emissions". Further implying skepticism about emissions trading, the Victorian resolution stated: "The AMWU believes that the big polluting corporations which are responsible for global warming should be responsible for paying the costs of fixing the problem. Working class people are not responsible for the problem. For this reason, the AMWU is opposed to measures such as increasing energy bills."