Climate change

Climate change

At Rio Tinto, we recognise that climate change is occurring, and that it is largely caused by human activities.

Our operations are energy intensive, and we are taking action to improve productivity and reduce emissions. Our challenge is to meet the world’s growing needs for the metals and minerals we produce, while addressing the issue of climate change.

“By 2050, almost ten billion people will require food, shelter and energy,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques. “The demand for the essential metals and minerals we provide will continue to be immense. Against this backdrop, Rio Tinto has long recognised the significance of climate change. A key role for society – and Rio Tinto – is to find ways to emit much less carbon dioxide and reduce our environmental impact.

“Our aim is to be part of the solution.”

Climate change Climate change
Aerial view of Chute-du-Diable dam, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada


reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity between 2008 and 2016

Tracking progress

It takes determination, innovation and investment to succeed. Our people, our partners, and our programmes are working to find new ways to operate, to increase efficiency, and to build the resilience of our business.

It’s been almost 20 years since we set our first public greenhouse gas target, and we have made good progress since then.

We set a target that, from 2008 to 2015, we would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 10 per cent. We exceeded this, recording a 20.3 per cent reduction overall in that period, and by the end of 2016 had reduced our greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 26 per cent. We achieved this by raising efficiency within our business, and by divesting or closing emissions-intensive assets. In 2015 we extended our target period to 2020. Today, 67 per cent of the electricity we source is from hydropower. The majority of this is in Canada, where we own 4,000MW of hydroelectric capacity.

Some of our products have emissions when they are used. However, our metals and minerals can also be beneficial in terms of reducing emissions globally. Aluminium is valuable as a lightweight material that helps the automotive and aerospace industries reduce their carbon footprints, and it’s recyclable. The electrification of energy grids, transportation and buildings all rely on copper’s conductive properties. And minerals like borates are used in applications like insulation and wind turbines.

Matthew Bateson, head of Environment and Legacy Management, talks about how Rio Tinto is responding to the challenge of climate change

Preparing for a low-carbon future

Partnership and engagement are key in tackling the challenge of climate change. Business, governments and consumers must pool their efforts to deliver results.

In 2015, in signing the Paris Pledge for Action, we demonstrated our support for the Paris Agreement and the commitment governments made to a safe and stable climate in which temperature rise is limited to less than 2°C.

At our annual general meeting in 2016, shareholders asked us to report about what we are doing to prepare our business for a low-carbon future.

Our first dedicated climate change report starts to address the resolution passed by our shareholders. It outlines how we aim to address the challenges by sharing our climate change commitments, our performance and our approach. However we recognise that there is still more to be done, and in future reports we will include additional information about our resilience to a 2°C climate change scenario.

Find out more about the work we are doing in our 2016 Sustainable development report and read our climate change position statement.

Our aim is to be part of the solution.

J-S Jacques, chief executive