AS a civil and environmental engineer, I was trained to plan for contingencies. For every plan A, there's a plan B, C and even D.
That's why it disappoints me that successive Labor and Liberal governments have failed to plan for what the Hunter region and its economy will look like in 10, 20 and 50 years' time.
The world is changing and the writing is on the wall for coal. In response to the climate crisis, we are seeing the coal industry close down in places like Germany while our traditional export markets like China and Japan have pledged to cancel coal power stations in favour of renewables.
As it stands our governments have no plan for communities reliant on coal companies.
We cannot stand by and see these communities, like many here in the Hunter, be left high and dry once these companies start to pack up and leave.
While Liberal and National governments are in climate denial, we know there is a choice.
We can sit back and do nothing, or we can actively plan for a transition that not only moves us to a renewable more sustainable economy but also supports coal workers, their families and communities.
There is so much potential for new jobs in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, education and training, and manufacturing, but this can only happen with government backing and investment.
The Greens have established a parliamentary inquiry into Jobs for the Future in Regional Areas and I will be joining hearings in the Hunter to hear directly from people of the Hunter and experts on how we can best deliver jobs for the future in regional NSW.
The hearings will be held on November 5.
The Hunter is dangerously at the mercy of fossil-fuel giants, especially in towns like Cessnock, Muswellbrook and Singleton.
These multi-billion dollar coal companies know that renewables completely replacing coal is not a question of if, but when.
As soon as it does, they will cut and run from the Hunter to look for profits elsewhere, leaving communities and workers to fend for themselves.
That is completely unacceptable.
Equally unacceptable is the Liberal-National government's resistance to coming up with a plan that anticipates the big changes coming our way or better still shapes the change that we need to protect the planet and people on it.
We are fast approaching the tipping point of the climate emergency.
We may have already caused irreversible damage to our climate, but both Labor and the Liberals are putting their fingers in their ears and pretending that coal isn't in decline and climate breakdown isn't going to have profound impacts on everyone.
They don't want to consider the impact rising temperatures will have on workers who already struggle through the intense long summer.
They don't want to front up to the consequences of more frequent and severe floods, fires and droughts for our agriculture sector. They're not willing to address what species loss and beach erosion means for tourism.
Their silence, denial and inaction isn't good enough.
The Greens want to see big investment to diversify the economy, tackle the climate emergency and provide a long-term future for towns like Cessnock, Singleton and Muswellbrook.
We have an opportunity to remake a society where no one is left behind in the transition away from coal.
But this does require the political will to invest in making these unprecedented changes.
It requires a commitment to free lifelong education and training so workers have the chance to retrain with no barriers.
It means government support for developing industries that employ workers leaving coal jobs.
It means massive investment in public housing to end the homelessness crisis and it means funding to create jobs in early learning centres, schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes, caring work that support our community.
This transformation, funded by government investment, must come through expanding community say in decision-making and greater workplace rights would give locals the control currently held by corporations and distance governments.
This plan will let us simultaneously free ourselves of dependence on the fossil fuel industry and build a brighter future for communities living in the Hunter.
Let's make this plan A because there is no planet B.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi is a Greens senator for NSW
The Hunter is dangerously at the mercy of fossil-fuel giants ... these multi-billion dollar coal companies know that renewables completely replacing coal is not a question of if, but when.