Growing up in the Hunter, I've been proud of a history of family in the coal industry. For all of my life, I can remember seeing endless streams of ships being pulled into our beautiful harbour which is no surprise considering Newcastle exports more coal than any other port in the world.
In 2016, Newcastle exported 160 Million tonnes of coal, which would produce about 460Mt of CO2 - almost equivalent to Australia's entire domestic emissions, that's as much as every Australian household, vehicle and industry combined.
I am just 17 years old but I can see that our region's future does not lie in this industry.
Coal has powered the Hunter for generations but we need to accept that it isn't going to last forever. The time has come to move our region to cleaner, safer renewable energy, which will deliver futureproof jobs for local workers, cleaner air for Hunter communities, and a safer climate for everyone.
Despite this fact, the Liberals and Nationals are pushing for gas to replace our ageing coal infrastructure.
Replacing a coal-burning power station with gas is like upgrading from a typewriter to a fax machine - they're both polluting fossil fuels that belong in the past and have been eclipsed by renewables, which are cheaper and safer.
Don't fall for their spin; gas is as dirty as coal.
The opposition has also had their faults, as Hunter Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has said there is no public appetite for ambitious climate policies. I don't think that is the truth.
I believe there has been a lack of courage among our politicians to support ambitious policies to move us forward. Our politicians are too afraid to put their careers on the line to protect the futures of the communities they represent.
It isn't going to last forever, and our leaders need to have the courage to adapt to a changing world. Recently, we've seen many countries backing away from fossil fuels. We've seen it in the UK, in Japan, and in our neighbour New Zealand. No country's climate policy is perfect but their leaders have shown courage on this issue ...
It is the easy route to stick by a dying industry, there is no courage in that. As Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on his recent visit to the Hunter, "the coal industry provides jobs for 55,000 people, most of them in regional areas." To protect fossil fuel workers and their communities, we need to secure them a future that doesn't rely on coal and gas.
The coal-fired power station Liddell has become a focal point for the national energy debate.
The federal government wants to replace it with a 1000 megawatt gas plant at Tomago - but research shows that replacing it with renewable energy is a better solution for our economy and climate.
The world, and Australia, are already moving on from coal and gas. The NSW government has made a commitment to a clean energy future, which includes a new Hunter Renewable Energy Zone. We don't need any more gas.
Next year will be my last year of high school, which means I'll be entering the workforce in the next few years and the idea of the Hunter as a homegrown renewable energy powerhouse, with future-facing, exciting new jobs in clean energy industries, is the future I want.
Renewable energy is the best option for creating long-term jobs for Hunter workers with research showing gas is one of the weakest employers in the country.
How much more evidence do we need that a gas-led recovery is a bad bet for our economy, our manufacturing industry and our environment.
The federal government needs to see sense, listen to what the community, and in particular young people want, and back a renewable energy solution.
Newcastle's history has had many chapters. We've seen a steel industry rise and fall, and now the same can be said for the coal industry.
It isn't going to last forever, and our leaders need to have the courage to adapt to a changing world. Recently, we've seen many countries backing away from fossil fuels. We've seen it in the UK, in Japan, and in our neighbour New Zealand.
No country's climate policy is perfect but their leaders have shown courage on this issue, and it is about time our leaders did the same.
The world is moving on. It's up to us as to whether Australia, and the Hunter, moves with it.
Bryce Ham is a 17-year-old Newcastle school student.