The recent announcements that the Hunter's coal-fired power stations will close by the end of the decade mean the region can not wait any longer to begin the massive task of transitioning to a clean energy economy.
A transition plan is a social and economic blueprint that will allow the Hunter Region to adjust to the structural changes that will result from the closure of coal-fired power generation and the decline of coal mining in coming years.
Alan Finkel, who chairs the council working with the Australian government to develop its low-emission technology roadmap, cautions that large amounts of patience will be required by governments, industry and the community if to achieve a positive end result.
"It takes not months but years to achieve a just transition in terms of investing in new businesses, training people for new job opportunities, dealing with short term disruption." he said.
Overseas experience shows that a successful transition requires buy-in from all sectors of the community.
"It's also up to people to realise and accept the changes coming and instead of resisting it say, "Okay, what's the opportunity either for me to get retrained or for my son or daughter to train in the appropriate industries of the future," Professor Finkel said.
"Everybody has a role here. The one thing that we shouldn't do is just say, "I don't want to be part of the change and I'm gonna resist it," because that's the worst thing you can do for your own future."
The latest NSW intergenerational report predicts coal production in NSW could end within 20 years as the shift towards clean energy picks up pace. It also forecasts that coal mining royalties in NSW are expected to more than halve by 2061.
The Department of Regional NSW commissioned the international economics consultancy Deloitte in late 2020 to investigate the possible impacts of transition in the Hunter.
Its report Upper Hunter Futures states that the future of the Upper Hunter is "highly uncertain" and urgent action is needed if the region is to avoid the worst social and economic impacts of the coal market's decline.