The Hunter has a long and proud history of being plugged into global markets. In fact, Australia's first export commodity left from the Port of Newcastle as a shipment of coal bound for India in 1799. Now the message from our trading partners is loud and clear.
Last month, President Joe Biden said the US would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Japan is doubling its efforts, aiming to decrease its emissions by 46 per cent of its 2013 target by 2030. South Korea says it will no longer fund overseas coal projects. Combined, these two Asian economic powerhouses represent more than 50 per cent of Hunter coal exports.
To maintain the Hunter's position as a global energy hub in these rapidly changing conditions, it's crucial to change the way we export energy. That era of loading coal and gas on ships, as we did in 1799, is ending. Australian renewable energy now needs to be embodied in products: steel, aluminium, mining equipment, batteries.
This opens the door for a massive boom in regional prosperity.
Around the world, companies such as BHP, Apple and IKEA are taking emissions out of their supply chain.
For countries such as Australia, with massive renewable resources, processing our ore and rare earth onshore and powered by 100 per cent Australian renewable energy, creates jobs and a new export pathway.
Top Hunter businesses have signalled they aim to keep pace with the change. Molycop has become one of Australia's biggest renewable energy buyers to take emissions out of its customers' supply chain.
Ampcontrol, BME and 3ME are trailblazing in emissions-free mining equipment and vehicles.
Beyond Zero Emissions knows the Hunter can deliver a world-leading zero-emissions supply chain, and we plan to get there through Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts.
These precincts will have flexibility and funding to support manufacturers to restructure their operations to become 100 per cent renewable with globally competitive energy prices.
Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts could transform the whole of the Hunter towards long-term sustainable jobs and growth through regional infrastructure, specialised industry clusters and support for manufacturers to transition towards zero-emissions processes.
But we need to get cracking as we're at risk of falling behind our competitors.
It's time to set up the Hunter as a global energy hub with a thriving manufacturing sector, ready to meet international demand for emissions-free products.
Sam Mella is the Beyond Zero Emissions Hunter diversification lead
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