Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations, has pledged its support for the global renewable energy industry and promised to tackle climate change while committing to “publicly argue against subsidies for coal.”
The move from one of Australia’s dominant industry names comes less than a year after the company completed its exit from the coal game with the sale of its last coal mine, the Kestrel underground coal mine in central Queensland in the country’s northeast. Rio Tinto’s chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said at the time that the move leaves the company’s portfolio “stronger and more focused.”
In an industry associations policy note published this month, the Australian mining giant furthered its commitment to tackling climate change by committing to use its membership in industry associations “to ensure their advocacy is consistent with our own public position and the Paris Agreement.” Specifically, Rio Tinto has committed to “recognise the valuable contribution that renewables make in reducing emissions” and promised to “not undermine the role they have in the energy mix.” Rio Tinto will also “support governments’ emission reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement” and support “a technology neutral approach” to the future of the global energy mix, where “no technology will be put forward over others.”
This last certainly allows for the possibility that Rio Tinto doesn’t always need to offer a full-throated commitment to renewables, but when placed in tandem with its policy not to “undermine” the role of renewables, we should be pleased with its commitment.
As regards Rio Tinto’s membership in Australian industry associations, the company will also “publicly argue against subsidies for coal” and ensure that “any advocacy on the use of coal in the long term will note that it will require advanced technology, and in the medium to long term must be consistent with Paris targets.”
Rio Tinto will also reevaluate its relationship with industry associations who do not partner with it “in seeking to advance the policy agenda consistent with these principles.”
Rio Tinto has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions intensity below its 2020 target of 76% (where the target was a 24% reduction), down to 71.1% at the end of 2018 based on a 2008 baseline, while 71% of the company’s electricity consumption already comes from renewable energy sources. As of 2018, Rio Tinto’s total greenhouse gas emissions sat at 27.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e), down from 33.8 million tCO2e in 2014.
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