While BHP has some of the resource sector’s most aspirational climate policies, it has come under sustained pressure over its links to powerful industry groups, which have advocated for policies said to be inconsistent with its own positions and the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Nearly one in three BHP investors defied the mining giant’s board and supported a similar motion in 2019 for it to suspend membership of groups including Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia and Coal21. The motion highlighted concerns about the groups’ support for political issues such as subsidies for coal-fired power stations, the development of a new thermal coal basin and the removal of gas-drilling bans in parts of the country.
United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres on Monday said the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the dramatic effect of human-induced climate change “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet”. “OECD countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040,” he said. “Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.”
A growing number of banks, insurers and institutional investors have been accelerating moves to divest coal assets and pledging not to make new investments in the industry, citing concerns about the fossil fuel’s contribution to global warming.
This year, however, coal prices have been rallying to multi-year highs, signalling the commodity’s enduring near-term demand.
The price of Australian thermal coal, used in power generation, has surged ahead of a warm summer in the Northern Hemisphere and forecasts of increased demand from air-conditioners, while prices for coking coal used for steel-making have been benefiting from construction and industrial activity rebounding following the COVID-19 downturn.
Ms Constable said a responsible minerals sector was key to providing the prosperity “crucial to Australia’s post-COVID recovery”.
“It is also helping to sustain and improve the lives of millions around the world while providing the critical raw materials necessary for modern and emerging economies to flourish in a decarbonised future.” she said.
The ACCR said concerned shareholders would persist in holding BHP to account for the lobbying activities of its industry associations.
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