Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations, this week announced plans to invest around US$1 billion over the next five years to support the delivery of its new climate change targets, along with a pledge for net zero emissions from operations by 2050.
New 2030 ambitions include a 30% reduction in emissions intensity from 2018 levels, a 15% reduction in absolute emissions, and carbon neutral growth over the next 10 years.
“Climate change is a global challenge and will require action across nations, across industries and by society at large. New technologies, partnerships and effective government policies will be key in achieving this goal but today there is no clear pathway for the world to get to net zero emissions by 2050,” says CEO J-S Jacques. “The challenge for the world, and for the resources industry, is to continue the focus on poverty reduction and wealth creation, while delivering climate action. This will require complex trade-offs which means we all need to face up to some challenging decisions and have an honest conversation.”
Rio Tinto’s second climate report, released at the same time and guided by TCFD recommendations, lays out the firm’s net-zero strategy: which includes a shift to the production of materials needed for a low-carbon future including aluminium, copper and iron ore. It also commits to reducing its own carbon footprint as well as supporting the reduction of the carbon footprint along its value chain, and improving its resilience to physical climate risks – with 76% of electricity consumption at managed operations already derived from renewable energy. The firm recently invested in renewables to lower costs and cut emissions at its new Koodaideri mine, where a 34MW solar energy farm and 45MW Lithiumion battery will supply all daytime electricity needs and 66% of its annual power requirements.
Rio Tinto’s new 2030 climate targets are also linked to executive remuneration. Jacques’ Short Term Incentive Plan includes delivery of the group’s strategy on climate consistent with the new targets. These are cascaded down to relevant members of the Executive Committee and other members of senior management.
“Unlike its rivals, Rio Tinto does not produce fossil fuels and does not sell carbon,” points out climate data specialist Carbon Tracker. However, the move has been met with scepticism in some areas, particularly in New Zealand, where reports emerged this week that the firm had reneged on a deal to fast-track the removal of 10,000 tonnes of hazardous aluminium dross from Mataura River, toxic waste generated from its Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.
“Rio Tinto has just posted its largest profit in 11 years. Meanwhile, communities… are living with poisoned rivers and dying forests flooded with its mine waste. Time to clean up your mess Rio!” tweeted Keren Adams, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.