Translating Just Transition Theory into Action: Collie, Western Australia
Updated: Nov 28
For the past six months, I have been running a project researching the Just Transition in Collie, Western Australia (WA). You have likely never heard of this small town of 7,599 people, but in many ways, it is a Just Transition pioneer.
Collie was declared a townsite in 1896 following the discovery of coal in 1883 and since the early 1900s, it has been a coal mining town. The first coal-fired power station opened in 1931 and Collie has been the source of WA’s power ever since. Mining and heavy industry are an integral part of the town’s identity, with 1,250 workers and contractors employed at the mines or power stations. In 2020, the WA government published Collie’s Just Transition Plan before subsequently announcing the phased closure of the town’s two state-owned power stations over the next decade.
There are a few reasons the town needs to transition – the local coal basin has been in an ongoing financial crisis for years, one of the power stations is coming to the end of its lifespan, and the uptake of rooftop solar has significantly disrupted the energy mix in the state. If WA doesn’t have an energy transition, citizens will be paying $1,200 more a year on energy bills by 2030.
From March to May this year, we spoke to government officials and members of Collie’s Just Transition Working Group to gain an understanding of how Collie’s transition developed, which stakeholders were involved and what the lessons so far have been. We have developed these findings into a comprehensive report that provides a Just Transition Implementation Framework and recommendations for various stakeholders: all levels of government, unions, industry, and investors.
Some findings and lessons from Collie’s transition are broadly applicable to other locations, while others are only relevant to the town itself. This reflects the importance of grounding the Just Transition in the local context, paying attention to identity and history. In Collie, coal is historically coded as positive, as in many multi-generational coal mining communities. This affects communication and planning around the town’s transition and there is an acknowledgement that alongside the transition there is a grieving process for the workers and families who have relied on coal for generations.
When we began the research, we thought it would provide useful evidence for investors and companies wishing to implement their own Just Transitions. However, a key finding that has emerged is the need for government leadership. In Australia, the IGCC and ACSI have called on federal government to set the policy direction that enables other stakeholders to take action on transition. In WA, the state government has played the key role in catalysing, funding, and coordinating Collie’s transition.
At the beginning of May, the Australian Government announced it would be establishing a new Net Zero Authority that will be legislated to:
Support workers in emissions-intensive sectors to access new employment, skills, and support as the net zero transformation continues.
Coordinate programs and policies across government to support regions and communities to attract and take advantage of new clean energy industries and set those industries up for success.
Help investors and companies to engage with net zero transformation opportunities.
This announcement has been welcomed by the WA government as it will unlock further funding and investment for Collie’s transition and diversification of the town’s economy. Australia is currently providing valuable examples of how different levels of government can take action and work together on Net Zero. At the heart of our Just Transition Implementation Framework is the need for collaboration and for each stakeholder (whether union, investor, industry, or government) to consider where their areas of influence and capabilities lie, and to use this as the foundation for action.
A preview of our Just Transition Implementation Framework:
Our report was published at the end of August 2023 and can be accessed below. If you have questions about the research, please contact us at email@example.com