Regional communities built around traditional mining and manufacturing will die unless governments invest and support them through the clean energy transition, Labor's Chris Bowen has warned.
Labor's climate and energy spokesman believes the same regional cities which have historically powered the nation can and will become the engine room of Australia's renewable energy economy.
But he has warned they could become ghost towns if the federal and state governments don't acknowledge change is coming, and don't have specific plans in place to guide communities through it.
He argues while some major decisions, such as the future of the coal export market, will be made offshore, Australian governments are firmly in control of policies which can help smooth the transition for workers and towns.
"I'm not saying there aren't going to be bumps along the road, but where governments recognise that change is happening and work with those communities ... those communities can thrive," he said.
"But where left to their own devices, left swinging, they die."
Mr Bowen used the example of Mount Morgan in regional Queensland, a town once home to one of the world's largest and richest mines before it shut in 1980.
The Labor frontbencher's ancestors worked on the mine after migrating from Wales, and he's visited the town a number of times.
"It's a lovely town and the people are lovely. But it's economically depressed, there is nothing for people to do. Young people move away to get work," he said.
Mr Bowen made the comments in an interview with Australian Community Media, publisher of this newspaper, as part of its Road to Net Zero series, which is examining what the clean energy transition means for Australia in the weeks leading up to the highly anticipated Glasgow climate summit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought to reassure the Nationals regional Australia would not lose out during the transition as he attempts to win their support for a new climate policy to include a net zero by 2050 target.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Bowen declared one of his first orders of business as climate and energy minister in an Albanese government would be to convene a meeting with his state and territory counterparts to start developing a coherent national plan.
All states and territories have promised net zero by 2050, with two Liberals states - NSW and Tasmania - pledging some of the most ambitious targets and commitments in the nation.
"States and territories are doing good things, but it is a patchwork and they are filling the void from a lack of federal government policies," Mr Bowen said.\
Labor has committed to legislating a net zero by 2050 target if it wins the next election, but is refusing to declare its short-term emissions reduction ambitions until after the government shows its hand.
Mr Bowen said Australia's 2030 target needed to be "substantially higher" than 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels, which has been Coalition policy since the Tony Abbott era.
Mr Bowen confirmed Labor would take either a 2030 or 2035 target to the next election, but he refused to speculate on what that figure might be.
Labor has promised a suite of other climate and energy policies, including a $20 billion promise to modernise the electricity grid and $200 million plan to build communities batteries.
Bill Shorten took a 45 per cent 2030 target to the failed 2019 election campaign, a policy his successor as leader, Anthony Albanese, later labelled a "mistake".
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But sentiment has shifted since then. One example is the stance of the Business Council of Australia, which having labelled Mr Shorten's target "economy-wrecking", is now advocating for even more ambitious 2030 targets.
Labor's internal 2019 election review found its confused position on the Adani coal mine and anti-coal rhetoric "devastated" its support in regional Queensland and the Hunter.
Internal unrest over Labor's climate policies flared in the aftermath of the election loss. Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon eventually quit the front bench last November after months of warning Labor pursuing more ambitious targets could prolong its time in opposition.
Mr Fitzgibbon last month announced his resignation from federal politics, declaring he now believed the party was in a position to win the next election.
Labor is not completely united on climate policy, with its support for fracking in the Beetaloo Basin causing unrest among parts of its left faction.
Mr Bowen has tweaked the tone of Labor's messaging on climate policy since replacing Mark Butler in the role, providing public reassurances to coal mine workers and talking up the job-creating potential of the clean energy revolution.
Mr Bowen said he made no apologies for visiting coal mines during his nine months in the role, and was adamant regional workers would be better off under a Labor government.