Climate change

Climate Change

1.1Mt CO2e (3%)

Emissions Reduced Relative to our 2018 Baseline 


Committed of the $1B Announced for Climate-Related Projects


Electricity Used at our Managed Operations from Renewable Sources

Scope 3 Goals

To Work with Partners to Reduce Emissions Across our Value Chains

In a world dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, societal expectations on climate action remain high. Addressing them will, today more than ever, require businesses, governments and society to work together.

Having divested the last of our coal businesses in 2018, we no longer extract fossil fuels. Our portfolio is well positioned for the transition to a low-carbon economy. And in 2020 we pledged to address our own emissions, and those of our value chain. Our ambition: to reach net zero emissions across our operations by 2050.

For 2021, we also articulated a more explicit link between executive remuneration and our climate change goals and targets. Our targets – to reduce our absolute emissions by 15% by 2030 and emissions intensity by 30% relative to our 2018 equity baseline – are consistent with a 45% reduction in absolute emissions, relative to 2010 levels, and align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pathways to 1.5°C. They are supported by our commitment to spend $1 billion on climate-related projects from 2020-24.

We operate in value chains with large carbon footprints. So we are actively engaging in partnerships to explore ways to improve environmental performance across our value chains, such as with China Baowu Steel Group, Tsinghua University and Nippon Steel Corporation in the steel sector, and the ELYSIS joint venture developing carbon-free smelting technology for aluminium. In 2021 we set a series of measurable and impactful Scope 3 emissions reduction goals to guide our partnership approach. We are also active participants in the International Council on Mining and Metals and the Climate-Smart Mining initiative.

Charging On to reach net zero emissions

We know we can’t tackle the climate change challenge alone. That’s why we’re proud to partner with BHP and Vale – together with Austmine – to launch the Charge On Innovation Challenge. Our goal? To cut diesel use and emissions across our industry by finding a way to electrify mining truck fleets.

Innovation is the key to decarbonisation, and we expect the Challenge will deliver exciting new concepts that could drive huge long-term benefits for our industry and the environment.”

Mark Davies, Group Executive Safety, Technical and Projects

Our Climate Change Strategy

Our climate change strategy is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement; climate change considerations are integrated with our strategic and operational decision making and our approach is supported by strong governance and continual strengthening of our processes and capabilities. Our third climate change report is available on our Sustainability reporting page and details progress against the four pillars of our approach:


  1. Produce materials essential for a low-carbon future

    We supply the metals and minerals essential to human progress. Each of the commodities we produce has a role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our most recent scenario analysis indicates that our portfolio is expected to perform more strongly in scenarios with proactive climate action, including in a scenario aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.


  2. Reduce the carbon footprint of our operations

    Our ambition is to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Our 2030 targets are to reduce our emissions intensity by 30% and our absolute emissions by 15%. Most of our assets already sit in the low end of their respective commodity carbon intensity curves and our 2030 targets are aligned with a 45% reduction in absolute emissions from 2010 levels, which is consistent with 1.5°C pathways as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


  3. Partner to reduce the carbon footprint across our value chains

    Climate change will only be solved through collective action by governments, business and consumers around the globe. We are working on innovative partnerships to stimulate action with customers and other partners across the value chain. In 2020, we defined a series of measurable and impactful Scope 3 emissions reduction goals to guide our partnership approach.


  4. Enhance our resilience to physical climate risks

    We consider climate risks over the life of our operations, from the development of new projects through to closure and beyond. We have already experienced extreme weather events at many of our sites and are using scenarios to assess further medium- to long-term risks.

QMM targeting carbon neutral by 2023

From 2022, we’ll use solar and wind energy to provide 60% of Qit Madagascar Minerals’ (QMM) annual power needs, as well as supply clean power to Fort Dauphin and surrounding communities in Madagascar.

The project is one of the steps QMM is taking to be carbon neutral by 2023. It is part of a broader programme to reduce our environmental footprint in Madagascar, focussed on emissions reduction, waste and water management, carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and reforestation.

Decarbonisation initiatives announced in 2021

  • To help us introduce zero-emission haul trucks at our global operations we’re working with manufacturers Caterpillar and Komatsu to test new technology at our sites.
    Read more about our partnership with Caterpillar >
    Read more about our partnership with Komatsu >
  • We are partnering with Paul Wurth S.A. and SHS-Stahl-Holding-Saar GmbH & Co. KGaA (SHS) to explore the viability of transforming iron ore pellets into low-carbon hot briquetted iron, a low-carbon steel feedstock, using green hydrogen generated from hydro-electricity in Canada.
    Read more >
  • We are partnering with energy technology company, Heliogen to explore the deployment of breakthrough solar technology at our borates mine in Boron, California. The technology will use heat from the sun to generate and store carbon-free energy – via steam generation combined with the heat storage in rock salts – for the industrial processes.
    Read more >
  • We joined Japan’s Green Value Chain Platform Network (GVC Network), a collaboration established by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment to lead transparent decarbonisation efforts in the country. GVC Network member companies work to set science-based targets for emissions reduction that are economically feasible and effective for the achievement of their Scope 1, 2 and 3 targets.
    Read more >
  • We are partnering with POSCO – the largest steel producer in South Korea and one of the world’s leading steel producers – to jointly explore, develop and demonstrate technologies to transition to a low-carbon emission steel value chain. The partnership will explore a range of technologies for decarbonisation across the entire steel value chain from iron ore mining to steelmaking, including integrating our iron ore processing technology and POSCO’s steelmaking technology.
    Read more >
  • We have formed two partnerships to research using hydrogen to reduce emissions in alumina refining: a study with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to assess hydrogen use in industry and support a coordinated approach to developing a local supply chain, and a study with Sumitomo Corporation into building a hydrogen pilot plant at our Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia.
  • Read more about our partnership with ARENA >
    Read more about our partnership with Sumitomo Corporation >

2020 Performance

  • Year in Review
  • Year in Numbers

We divested the last of our coal businesses in 2018 and no longer extract fossil fuels. Our ambition is to reach net zero emissions across our operations by 2050. This year, with a strong focus on execution, we have also articulated a more explicit link between executive remuneration and our climate change targets: to reduce our absolute emissions by 15% by 2030 and emissions intensity by 30% (relative to our 2018 equity baseline). These targets were informed by a comprehensive analysis of abatement opportunities across the Group and supported by our commitment to spend approximately $1 billion on emissions reduction initiatives over a five-year period, starting in 2020.

In 2020, we started the transition to renewable energy in the Pilbara, in Western Australia, with the approval of the $98 million, 34MW solar plant at Gudai-Darri and 45MW battery system at Tom Price. Today, 75% of electricity used at our managed operations is from renewable sources. Of the $1 billion we committed to climate-related projects over five years, in 2020, we approved spend of more than $140 million.

Since 2018, we have reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 1.1Mt CO2e, or 3%, which is on track with our 2030 target for absolute emissions. However, in 2020, our emissions remained at the same level as in 2019 at 31.5Mt CO2e. We expect progress on emissions to accelerate later in our 2030 target period as we develop and implement our mitigation projects, studies and research and development.

Over the past year, we have further developed our asset-by-asset decarbonisation roadmaps and started work on mitigation projects, with a particular focus on renewables, process heat and ways to replace diesel fuel in our mobile fleets and rail networks. These roadmaps and actions are owned by our product groups and fully integrated into our annual business planning process, with support and coordination from our Energy and Climate Centre of Excellence.

In 2020 we also continued to develop technology solutions to meet our mid to long-term climate ambitions. For example, our ELYSIS joint-venture with Alcoa achieved production of commercial grade zero-carbon aluminium and completed the construction of the first industrial pilot facility in Canada.

We also made significant progress in our value chain climate partnerships in 2020. We committed $10 million to advance our partnership with China Baowu Steel Group and Tsinghua University and also signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Nippon Steel Corporation to jointly explore technologies to transition to a low carbon emission steel value chain.


Partnerships and Scope 3 Goals and Targets

In late 2020, China, Japan and South Korea joined the European Union to set carbon neutrality ambitions within a 2050-60 timeframe. Together, these countries account for more than 70% of our sales and around 90% of our value chain emissions (Scope 3) from our key products, including iron ore and aluminium. We have updated our methodology for calculating Scope 3 emissions which are estimated to be 519 Mt CO2e in 2020.

We continue to explore collective solutions to reduce emissions across our value chain. In 2021, we defined a series of measurable Scope 3 emissions reduction goals to guide our partnership approach.

With about 80% of our Scope 3 emissions coming from customers’ hard-to-abate processes, our Scope 3 goals are focused mostly on our contribution to the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies. These include targets related to the emissions from shipping our products. Our Scope 3 goals are to:

  • Work with customers on steel decarbonisation pathways and invest in technologies that could deliver reductions in steelmaking carbon intensity of at least 30% from 2030
  • Work in partnership to develop breakthrough technologies with the potential to deliver carbon neutral steelmaking pathways by 2050
  • Continue to scale up the ELYSIS™ breakthrough technology enabling the production of zero-carbon aluminium
  • Meet our ambition to reach net-zero emissions from shipping our products by 2050

In many important applications, there are no low-carbon alternatives to steel, aluminium and copper. Furthermore, these materials will enable the low-carbon transition. The challenge is to produce them sustainably – not only with lower emissions, but also in a way that respects communities.

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity

Total greenhouse gas emissions

Sources of total greenhouse gas emissions

Calculating Our Emissions

Our approach used in the preparation of our 2020 Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory

QIT Madagascar Minerals

Disclosures Consistent with the TCFD Recommendations

In 2018, we referenced the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in our first climate change report and have aligned our climate change disclosures to be more transparent. Climate-related disclosures on governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets are also integrated into our Annual Report in the following sections: strategic context, key performance indicators, risk management, principal risks and uncertainties, governance, Sustainability Committee report and remuneration.

Our Climate Change Report provides a more thorough and consolidated review of our climate change strategy, our approach to evaluating and managing climate-related risks and progress towards our targets. Our 2020 Sustainability Fact Book, published with our Annual Report, includes a full list of the TCFD recommendations alongside references to our disclosure against them. We see ongoing development of good practice on climate-related disclosures in our sector and beyond, in part as a result of an iterative process of feedback from stakeholders.

We meet with the Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) group regularly at the Board, Executive Committee and climate team levels, and we value their co-ordination of investor engagement. We will work towards disclosures consistent with the evolving CA100+ benchmark and our Board intends to put our TCFD-aligned reporting to an advisory vote at our 2022 annual general meetings.

Our Position on Climate Change

In 2015, we supported the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the long-term goal to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Government policy that creates the right framework for change is critical, coupled with real business action and societal shifts. A challenge as serious as climate change requires transparency, collaboration and a shared contribution to the solution. Our positions on key climate and energy policy issues are:


  • Climate Science

    We accept mainstream climate science assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fact that climate change is occurring and is largely caused by human activities. We acknowledge the IPCC’s report on 1.5°C and their recommendation to aim for net zero emissions by 2050.

  • Paris Agreement

    We support the outcomes of the Paris Agreement and the long-term goal to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. We support governments as they raise the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

  • The Role of Business

    Significant progress towards a solution to climate change will only occur where there is broad engagement involving the breadth of experience and opinion from business, governments, investors, civil society organisations and consumers. Business has a role to play in addressing and managing the risks and uncertainties of climate change.

  • Emissions & Energy Reduction Targets & Standards

    It is important to set targets, take action to achieve them, and report on progress against targets. We do not advocate for policies that undermine the Paris Agreement or discount NDCs. Our ambition is to reach net zero emissions across our operations by 2050.

  • Adapting to Climate Change

    We recognise the importance of adaptation and increasing resilience to a changing climate.

  • Market Mechanisms & Emissions Trading

    Where climate policies are implemented, we support the use of market mechanisms, including a market-based price on carbon such as in emissions trading systems. We believe this is the best way of stimulating innovation and achieving emissions reductions at least cost.

  • Competitiveness

    Effective climate policies should incentivise the private sector to invest in low-carbon technology, while avoiding the negative unintended consequences of transferring industrial production to countries with weaker emissions regulation. Where climate regulation, such as carbon pricing, is introduced to incentivise the decarbonisation of ‘hard to abate’ sectors, this should be coupled with measures to maintain the competitiveness of emissions intensive trade-exposed industries to minimise competitive distortions within and across jurisdictions.

  • Energy Policy & Energy Efficiency

    Rio Tinto will promote alignment with its climate and energy policy in its discussions with industry association members. We recognise the valuable contribution that renewable energy sources make in reducing emissions. Many of our operations are energy intensive and we have been taking action to improve both productivity and energy efficiency, as we reduce emissions.

Climate and Energy Policy Advocacy

Significant global and regional progress on climate change will only happen when everyone – business, governments, investors, civil society organisations and consumers – plays their part. Our own approach to climate change requires active engagement on relevant policies with a range of stakeholders in the countries where we operate.

Our responses to government consultations are guided by our overall policy positions that include support for market mechanisms, as we believe this is the best way of stimulating innovation and achieving emissions reductions at least cost. Our submissions are typically developed by subject matter experts, reviewed by government relations and legal teams, and then approved by the relevant country director or senior executive.

In 2020, we responded directly to four national and sub-national government consultations on climate and energy policy:


Working with Our Industry Associations

Industry associations play an important role in policy development, sharing best practice and developing standards. They also allow us to better understand a range of external views and contribute our perspectives and experiences in support of a coordinated approach which benefits business, the economy and society.

We recognise that there is increasing stakeholder interest in industry associations and the role they play in policy advocacy. Each industry association is different. Some focus on a thematic mandate and promote best practice in a given domain, others gather a broader set of companies and represent a sector’s interest to government, policy makers and other stakeholders. Our participation across different industry associations also varies – we are more active in associations on issues where we can benefit, influence and add value.

Positions taken by industry associations on a given topic will consider a range of members’ views, and the nuance and emphasis of an industry association’s position may differ from that of Rio Tinto. Diverse and differing views should be heard in order to support rich and full debate, reach compromises where appropriate, and make progress on solutions to complex issues. We encourage industry associations to engage broadly with other stakeholders (such as investors and non-government organisations).

Our annual review of our industry association memberships supplements the Climate Change Report and provides a complete list of the major industry associations that take positions on climate change and sets out the elements used to evaluate their policy positions and advocacy:

  1. Accept mainstream climate science
  2. Advance the Paris Agreement goals to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels
  3. Support governments as they raise the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions
  4. Support market mechanisms, including carbon pricing, that stimulate innovation and cost-effective emissions reductions and minimise competitive distortions within and across sectors and jurisdictions
  5. Recognise the valuable contribution that renewable energy sources make in reducing emissions, not undermine the role renewables have in the energy mix
  6. Ensure that any positions and advocacy on the use of coal do not support subsidies and note that it will require advanced technology, and in the medium to long term must be consistent with Paris targets

The review provides further information on any major industry associations whose positions and advocacy on climate and energy policy significantly differ from Rio Tinto’s key positions on these issues.

Our Work with Industry Associations