March 26, 2020 / 8:07 AM / 14 days ago

Rio Tinto raps Australian lobby group for coal support

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) said on Thursday it had found several cases where Australia’s biggest mining industry body advocated for thermal coal in contravention of 2015 Paris climate goals, as it released a review of its membership in industry groups.

Rio Tinto laid out its expectations for the industry associations that it funds last April to ensure that their policy on climate change and energy advocacy was consistent with the miner’s own, as well as the Paris Agreement which aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

Where there was a lack of cooperation on advocating for those policies, Rio would reconsider its support and its membership of the groups, it said in an updated review released overnight.

The miner noted several advocacy “misalignments” by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), for which it is a major funder, paying $2.1 million (1.77 million pounds) each year, but said that the breaches were minor and it would maintain its membership.

“This includes instances of public commentary and advocacy on thermal coal and decarbonisation that is not technology neutral and is inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” Rio Tinto said.

The group supports continued action on climate change, Australia’s participation in the Paris Agreement and a transformation to a low emissions global economy, MCA Chief Executive Officer Tania Constable said.

The review comes as investors ramp up pressure on major carbon-linked companies to drop support for thermal, or energy coal, which can be substituted for renewable energy, if the world is to meet the Paris climate accord goals.

While Rio sold off its coal assets for billions over 2017-2018, it is the world’s largest producer of iron ore, a key raw material for the steel industry, one of the world’s biggest emitters.

Rio said it also found MCA had made statements that were not endorsed by MCA’s board or its members.

“This includes defence of future demand for thermal coal and advocacy that was inconsistent with goals of the Paris Agreement,” the miner said in the report.

As a result, MCA has agreed to improve its governance and processes around advocacy, Rio said.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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