At Rio Tinto, we believe we can be part of the solution to help address the climate change challenge.
Read our Climate Change Report, in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
Our aim is to make sure our business continues to deliver economic and social benefits over the short, medium and long term, as we support the transition to a low-carbon future.
We are focussed on:
- Supplying the materials essential to building a low-carbon economy
- Managing our own footprint
- Our resilience to physical impacts
- Partnering and advocating for policies that advance climate goals
For more than 20 years, we have publicly acknowledged the reality of climate change and its potential to affect our business, our communities and our world. Climate risks and opportunities have formed part of our strategic thinking for over two decades. And, with the sale of our remaining coal assets in 2018, we became the first major mining company to have a portfolio free of fossil fuel production.
In 2019, a larger part of our business is dedicated to supplying the materials essential to building a low-carbon economy – iron ore, used to make steel, will remain an important component of energy-efficient cities and infrastructure; our higher grade products are helping reduce GHG and other air emissions in customer markets, including China. Aluminium is strong, lightweight and infinitely recyclable. Ours is made with a GHG footprint more than 60% lower than the global industry average. Copper is the primary conductor of the world’s electrical infrastructure, including for wind turbines: every 1 MW wind turbine uses at least three tonnes of copper.
We believe that tackling climate change effectively will require a level playing field, not only across our industry, but across all industries and jurisdictions. It will also require transformational changes to the broader systems in which we operate, including strong government policy that creates the right environment for change, coupled with business action and societal shifts. We believe the best solutions will come from government, business and consumers working together. That’s why we signed the Paris Pledge, which supported and endorsed the commitments and ambition outlined in the Paris Agreement.
We continue to take steps to manage risks and build resilience to climate change, as well as to position ourselves for new opportunities. We are aiming for a substantial decarbonisation of our business by 2050 and we are working to define new emissions reduction targets from 2020. And we are looking at a variety of scenarios and abatement options to help us achieve our goals.
We also test our portfolio against a range of scenarios mapping the policy and technology pathways necessary to limit global temperature rises. Our analysis indicates that Rio Tinto’s business is relatively robust, including against a 2°C scenario consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Since 2008, we have reduced our emissions intensity by almost 30%, and absolute emissions by 43%. The sale and closure of our assets, including the last of our coal assets, contributed to these reductions, but so too did our use of clean, renewable energy. Today, 71% of the electricity used across the business is from low-carbon, renewable energy. The materials we produce will also play a key part in the transition to a low-carbon economy, from the recyclable properties of hydro-powered aluminium to the copper that will be used in electric cars.
We also continue to innovate. In 2018, we announced a pioneering new technology partnership with Alcoa, with support from Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec, to further develop carbon-free aluminium smelting technology – an industry first. If Elysis technology were to be adopted by every aluminium smelter across Canada alone, the greenhouse gas impact would be the equivalent of taking 1.8 million cars off the road. And at our Kennecott copper operations in America, we have shut our coal power plant and purchased renewable energy certificates – reducing the operation’s annual carbon footprint by 65%, or the equivalent of more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Resilience to Physical Risks
In 2017, we undertook a desktop assessment of our physical risks, focusing on the potential exposure of the regions in which we operate through the end of the century, both for our existing assets and future project developments. The science based assessment used the “business as usual” scenario (Representative Concentration Pathways 8.5) in the IPCC 5th assessment report (IPCC AR5), a deliberately conservative approach combining assumptions about high population and relatively slow income growth with modest rates of technological change and energy intensity improvements, leading in the long term to high energy demand and GHG emissions in the absence of climate change policies.
Our next step is to validate the desktop exercise with operational leaders and assess our existing controls. We have prioritised those operations with the highest risks.
We believe the best solutions will come from innovative partnerships across industry, governments and institutions.
That is why we were one of the first to join the World Bank’s Climate-Smart Mining Facility.
The partnership aims to support the sustainable mining and processing of minerals and metals needed for clean energy technologies, while also minimising the environmental and climate footprint.
Climate-Smart Mining will provide funding to support projects like integrating renewable energy in mining operations, supporting sustainable land-use practices, repurposing mine sites, and recycling minerals. It will also help governments to build a robust policy, regulatory and legal framework that promotes climate-smart mining practices.
It is one way we are working in partnership with others to make a real difference, and promote sustainable practices across our industry.
Partnering and Advocating for Policies that Advance Climate Goals
On the complex issue of climate change, we believe that significant progress towards a solution will only occur where there is broad engagement involving the breadth of experience and opinion from business, governments, investors, civil society organisations and consumers. We advocate for policy consistent with our public climate change position and the principles contained within it. We see global industry associations as important partners including in advocacy on key policy issues. Accordingly, where our membership is significant, we will work in partnership with those industry associations to ensure their advocacy is consistent with our own public position and the Paris Agreement.
Partnering to Reduce Carbon Emissions Across the Steel Value Chain
The steel industry accounts for 7-9% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the World Steel Association.
In 2019, we partnered with China’s largest steel producer, China Baowu Steel Group, and Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious and influential universities, to work on a joint action plan to explore ways to improve environmental performance across the steel value chain.
We will combine our strengths on everything from research and development, technologies, processes, equipment, logistics, industry coordination and policy advisory capacities to bring together solutions to help address the steel industry’s carbon footprint.