- Our Union
- Our Industries
Published: 10 Jun 2021
In response to the blockade of Port Botany fuel import facilities by climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia has come out backing the call for immediate climate action.
“The science is conclusive. Climate change is already wreaking havoc, from catastrophic bushfires to devastating floods. The time to take action is now” said MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Paul Keating.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 report indicates a need to rapidly shift away from using fossil-fuel based transport fuels, which would mean a dramatic decline in fuel imports over the coming years. Across the world governments and car manufacturers are working together to bring forward the roll out of electric cars. Closer to home, the NSW Government has already started the roll out of electric busses on the state’s public transport network ahead of a full electrical transition of the fleet scheduled to be completed by 2030.
“All fuel used in NSW is imported by sea. Just like every other job in carbon-intensive industries, we must take action now and plan a future for these workers in low emission jobs. We cannot afford to just wait for these jobs to disappear out from under these workers as the economy changes around us” said Mr. Keating.
While battery-powered technology is likely to replace much of the current fossil fuel dependent transport infrastructure, there is some heavy transport - such as shipping, heavy trucking and air travel - that needs a more powerful low emissions technology. Green hydrogen has been widely proposed as one potential energy source that can meet these heavy industrial needs.
In their report, the IEA says that ports “could become industrial hubs to produce hydrogen and ammonia for use in both chemical and refining industries, as well as for refueling ships’ (p.136). The IEA calls on governments “to define their strategies for low‐carbon fuels in shipping and aviation by 2025 at the latest […] priority action should target the most heavily used ports and airports so as to maximise the impact of initial investment. Harbours near industrial areas are ideally placed to become low carbon fuel hubs.” (p.138).
“Port Botany is perfectly situated to house future green-hydrogen production. Workers currently running the country’s fuel-imports have the skills to not only operate green-hydrogen production, but also storage and distribution. Governments should be now actively enacting plans to transition the existing fuel import, storage and distribution infrastructure and workforce before its too late” said Mr. Keating.
The MUA has already been driving a campaign for the development of publicly owned renewable energy projects that could provide thousands of jobs and reliable power. Seven huge offshore wind projects are currently blocked and waiting for the Federal government to put forward enabling legislation – three just in NSW. Government funding could support state-owned coastal shipping, new port terminals and upgrades of steelworks and cable manufacturers to supply offshore wind projects. Commonwealth-owned Snowy Hydro could be building offshore wind projects to ensure this happens quickly and provides good jobs.
Tragically, these projects are being ignored by the Federal LNP government, and instead it is funding coal seam gas, fracking, and gas power stations that will make the climate crisis worse, against the wishes of the community and Traditional Owners.
“We are encouraged that the NSW government is putting substantial funding into a Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, and we call on NSW Government to support the development of green hydrogen production and distribution in Port Botany and other ports, and offshore wind across coastal NSW. Nonetheless, we are far behind most other countries, and much more investment is needed now.” said Mr. Keating.
“Instead of building the industries of the future, the Federal government is signing dodgy back-room deals with its mates in the gas industry. The community has been forced to take to the streets like this by the inaction of those in power, it’s a disgraceful situation and it’s got to change” said Mr. Keating.
For Comment: Paul Keating – 0434 290 443
For Background: Shane Reside – 0400 526 313