Rio Tinto
Sustainable development 2011

Climate change

Introducing monthly emissions reporting

In 2011, we began monthly reporting of our GHG emissions intensity index. Our aim is to raise the visibility and importance of our emissions performance and to prepare for when financial liabilities begin to be widely applied to emissions.

All operations with annual emissions of more than 50,000 tonnes CO 2-e participate. This ensures that more than 95 per cent of the Group’s 2011 inventory is measured each month.

A monthly summary of the Group’s actual and planned performance is provided to Rio Tinto’s Executive committee. Additional detail is provided to each of our product groups and to individual businesses.

The benefits are already apparent. By gaining earlier insights into actual performance, we are providing momentum to improvements in our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and focusing greater attention on our future emissions performance.


We believe that emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) resulting from human activities are contributing to climate change, and that avoiding human-caused changes to the climate is an important international goal. We recognise that this challenge will impose costs for GHG abatement and necessitate a change in the way the world uses energy. We face significant upside and downside risks arising from energy and climate change policy. These have the potential to affect energy supply and costs to operations as well as the markets and prices for our products. It is critical that we position ourselves for future carbon constraints and climate regulation. Performance expectations need to be set, plans implemented, improvements measured and follow-up actions made. High quality and timely information is necessary to maintain the improvement focus, encourage success and to correctly and reliably communicate our emissions internally and externally.


Setting targets and regular reporting against these targets is a priority and helps us to manage our performance.

Reduction of our GHG intensity index is one of seven Group key performance indicators. We are targeting a reduction in the emissions intensity of our products by six per cent by 2013 and by a further four per cent by 2015, compared to 2008.

To achieve this target major investment is being made in new plants and technology. The operating efficiency of our ongoing operations is also critical.

With an anticipation of more widespread carbon pricing affecting our operations, accounting and reporting obligations will also increase. We are preparing for this by testing guidance material for the collection of emissions data to meet the strictest of audit requirements.

All this ensures a consistent understanding of performance across all of Rio Tinto’s operations.

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity

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Chart GHG emissions intensity index

Read about how we analyse the effects of carbon regulation aimed at reducing emissions, and about our ongoing engagement with governments on energy and climate policy, in our fact sheet.


In 2011, our total GHG emissions were 43.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2-e), an increase of 0.3 million tonnes from 2010, principally as a result of increased demand for our products.

Between 2008 and 2011, Rio Tinto’s GHG emissions intensity had reduced 3.8 per cent, largely as a result of the 2009 divestment of the Ningxia aluminium smelter in China.

Sources of total greenhouse gas emissions

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Chart total GHG emissions

Please see the Performance data section for a breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by product group and country.

Total greenhouse gas emissions

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Chart – sources total GHG emissions (2011)

The majority of Rio Tinto’s GHG emissions are generated as a result of energy use (electricity, fuel and anodes and reductants) during mining, milling and smelting activities at our sites.

We recognise that there are also significant GHG emissions associated with the transportation, processing and use of our products. In 2011, the three most significant sources of indirect emissions associated with our products were:

  • Approximately 5.4 million tonnes of CO2-e associated with third party transport of our products and raw materials.
  • An estimated 132 million tonnes of CO2-e associated with customers using our coal in electricity generation and steel production.
  • Approximately 362 million tonnes of CO2-e associated with customers using our iron ore to produce steel (these emissions are not in addition to the coal-use emissions above, as some customers use both our iron ore and our coal to produce steel).

Rio Tinto businesses report emissions to regulators in five countries or regions, including the Australian National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act.

Download the energy and climate change fact sheet (PDF) for more information.

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Interactive charts

Filter and analyse our performance data.

Fact sheet

For full information download the energy and climate change fact sheet.