Rio’s board said: “Rio Tinto has had a public position on climate change since 2005 which recognises the science of climate change, supports the goal to limit global temperature rise below 2°C, outlines the role of our company and our products in responding to that goal, and lays out our policy principles for climate advocacy.”
References to coal have shrunk dramatically from the MCA’s previous energy and climate change policy document, produced about three years ago and which referred to coal 12 times. The previous policy had said technology gains were dramatically cutting the carbon footprint of coal-fired power, and emphasised the role coal had played and would play, in meeting the energy needs of developing nations.
The new policy concludes with the final sentence: “The global transition to low emissions technologies – including solar, wind, batteries, gas, advanced coal and nuclear energy – depends on the metals and raw materials provided by the minerals sector.”
The policy comes almost three months after mining giant BHP put the MCA on notice that if the council did not stop lobbying for new coal-fired power stations it would review its membership of the group.
The Minerals Council policy said the minerals industry acknowledged that global action was needed to “reduce the risks of human-induced climate change”, and that Australia’s minerals industry supported “a measured transition to a low emissions global economy”.
To help enable this transition, the MCA called for “substantial investment” in a wide range of low emissions technologies, while warning that Australia needed a combination of policy measures that; minimised adverse social and economic impacts on Australian households, provided industry with policy certainty so that it could make sound long-term investments, and maintained Australian industry’s international competitiveness.
The MCA’s new policy also highlights concerns held about the national electricity system, saying the electricity market is facing serious challenges which include “the erosion of baseload generation capacity which is already adversely impacting Australia’s industrial sector and households”.
“Any policy approach should aim to reduce energy costs in Australia and retain a focus on securing reliable lowest cost dispatchable energy supply that is available 24/7, while meeting emissions reduction targets.”
A spokesman for Rio Tinto welcomed the Minerals Council’s new energy and climate change policy.
“We believe it is a good development. We’ve been engaged in the process and it affirms a number of positions on climate change that we consider important,” the spokesman said.
But the Minerals Council was blasted by the Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate change program manager, Gavan McFadzean.
“The Minerals Council has played a truly destructive role in ensuring our country does not have a credible plan to cut pollution,” he said.
“While the MCA has dumped some of its more explicit championing of dirty coal and nuclear power in its latest climate position, it still contains many principles and statements that continue to promote these dangerous fuels,” he said.
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