Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station is closing, but will our government step up to lead the transition? 

The owners of Hazelwood, Australia’s dirtiest power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, have just announced it will close in April 2017.

Hazelwood is the poster child of pollution in Australia. The decision to close is the strongest signal yet that the era of polluting coal is coming to an end.

This is welcome news for everyone who cares about our living world, the air we breathe and protecting our families and communities from pollution and climate change. Supporting the people who work in the power station and their local communities must now become a national priority.

Hazelwood is the dirtiest power station in Australia and one of the most polluting in the industrialised world.

Hazelwood is the dirtiest power station in Australia and one of the most polluting in the industrialised world. It pumps out 15 million tonnes of climate pollution every year – that’s 3 percent of Australia’s total pollution from one power station alone.

Engie, the French owners of the power station, have been signalling for months their intention to move away from polluting coal and embrace a future powered by clean energy. In the past year, Engie has sold or closed one third of their coal-fired power capacity globally.

While the Victorian and federal governments have today announced assistance packages for the local community, it’s a piecemeal plan that has come far too late. For years, the writing has been on the wall regarding the future of Hazelwood. And with the Paris climate agreement set to come into force tomorrow, it’s clear that all coal-fired power stations across Australia must go the same way in coming years.

Australians urgently need the Victorian and federal governments to deliver a plan to help people who work in the power station and their local community through the transition. Our government must also make sure there is a clear rehabilitation plan for the mine to ensure the Latrobe Valley isn’t left with a hazardous scar and toxic leaching.

But the real test for our government is whether they will deliver a national clean energy transition plan to make sure our future is brighter.

A national plan that guarantees an orderly and phased closure of polluting coal power stations and replaces them with clean energy like wind and solar. That puts a fair and just transition for communities and people who work in the coal power industry first. That secures the new clean energy investment we know is ready and waiting for the right signal from government.

Some state governments are stepping up to play their role, but a national plan is one that only a federal government can deliver. But just last week, our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared coal will be part of our energy mix “for many, many, many decades to come.”

Change is inevitable. But without leadership, Australia’s pollution will continue unabated.

Our politicians who are handcuffed to the past aren’t just missing in action, they’re actively trying to keep Australia chained to the dark ages.

We’ll continue to campaign for a plan to close our dirty coal power stations and build clean, renewable energy across the country.

But in the meantime, thank you for your commitment and campaigning to make this day possible. We’re grateful for the campaigns led by our friends at Environment Victoria, Friends of the Earth and Victorian based local climate groups over successive years to pave the way to replace Hazelwood with clean energy for our future. For the local leaders including the unions, community groups like Voices for the Valley and many others who’ve repeatedly called for a fair and equitable transition plan for people who work in the power industry and their communities.

Today we’ll celebrate hope – for an even better tomorrow we know we can create together.

Victoria McKenzie-McHarg

Climate stuff, art and my new kitten – love it all! Climate Change Campaign Manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation.