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Australian Coal Transitions: Economic and Social Perspectives

This project is a collaboration between MSSI and the Australian National University Crawford School of Public Policy.

Strong global climate change mitigation will require a significant decline in coal use. In Australia this will have impacts both on coal mining and domestic coal using industries, in particular electricity generation. Though heavily reliant on coal to date, it has been shown that a low-carbon energy transition for Australia’s energy sector is feasible. The transition however has significant economic and social ramifications, in particular for regions where coal mining and coal use is a large economic activity. Experience with past economic change suggests that prosperity can be safeguarded and enhanced, but that the process of transition needs to be well understood and well managed.



MSSI's Prof John Wiseman and A/Prof Frank Jotzo of the ANU Crawford School have both made submissions to the November 2016 Senate Inquiry into the Retirement of Coal Fired Power Stations, drawing on work being undertaken for their international research project on coal transitions in Australia. The Inquiry is looking at the case for planned closure of coal fired power stations and policy mechanisms for encouraging coal plant retirement as well as ensuring just transitions for affected workers and communities. The Interim Report is can be viewed here, with the final report expected in Feb 2017.
More info and copies of all submissions from stakeholders can be found at the Senate Inquiry website.

View the submissions to the Senate Inquiry below:


Aims and activities
The project aims to provide research findings and policy relevant insight on

  • social and economic challenges and opportunities in a transition from coal mining and coal fired power production and towards other forms of energy and economic activity;
  • with a particular focus on the brown coal power plants in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria;
  • and strategies and policy mechanisms that can enable the transition and make it socially acceptable and economically beneficial, and assist with structural adjustment.


Applied research stakeholder consultation are the key planks of the project. We will

  • take stock of experiences with past economic transitions in Australia and overseas,
  • analyze the potential for a range of possible strategies and policy interventions in specific circumstances of coal transition, and
  • undertake extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders.


The project will be initiated in September 2016, with an initial stakeholder roundtable in December 2016. Draft reports/papers scheduled for the second half of 2017.

The project forms part of the Australian contribution (led by ANU) for a multilateral research project "Climate policy and the coal sector: addressing social, economic, and policy concerns in holistic transition strategies”, led by IDDRI (France) with Climate Strategies (UK). Other teams are from China, India, South Africa, Poland and Germany.



Chief Investigators:

Prof John Wiseman
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

A/Prof Frank Jotzo
ANU Crawford School

Senior Advising Academics:

Prof Brendan Gleeson
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Prof Quentin Grafton
ANU Crawford School


Stephanie Campbell
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Fergus Green
Melbourne University
London School of Economics

Zeba Anjum
ANU Crawford School