This is an extract from an article in The Age entitled How Germany closed its coal industry without sacking a single miner
While Australia continues to open new coal mines, Germany is in the midst of closing down its entire coal sector so it can meet its agreements under the Paris climate accord.
One of the men who has led this transition is Michael Mersmann, director of global affairs with German mining union IG BCE. Mersmann is well travelled, charismatic and blunt.
Asked if he thinks that Australia could manage such a transition when and if the time comes he says “No”.
“One of the biggest problems Australia has is there is no existing relationship between employers, trade unions and states,” he said.
“In your country you are rather heading towards a conflict, not a consensus. What we are trying to do here is have softer negotiations and find a solution at an earlier point.”
Operating under a slogan that, loosely translated, declares that no one would be left behind in the pits, it was determined that not a single miner would be forced out of work. Instead pits were closed progressively across the region. Workers who wanted to stay on were transferred from mine to mine, while others were offered retraining, or if they were over 50, generous voluntary payouts.
The Mineral Council or Coal21 (as it is known) chief executive is Mark McCallum who said that with clean coal technology carbon generated by burning coal can be harnessed for uses as varied as hardening concrete to help extract oil from oil fields more effectively, safely keeping it out of the atmosphere.
Dr Martin Rice, acting chief executive of the Climate Council, which provides independent climate and energy advice in Australia, scoffs at the very notion of “clean coal”, likening it to “dry water”. “It is a fossil, you can’t burn it cleanly,” he says.