Minerals Council bows to calls for climate action plan

10 Oct Minerals Council bows to calls for climate action plan

Joanna Mather – The Australian Financial Review – Thursday 10 October
The Minerals Council of Australia has quietly announced plans to develop a climate action strategy after a campaign by major investors including superannuation funds.In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, the Minerals Council said it would release an action plan next year to help address human-induced climate change and limit global warming in accordance with the Paris Agreement.Institutional investors and activist shareholders have been demanding companies such as BHP suspend their membership of groups accused of undermining the Paris goals, including the Minerals Council.

AustralianSuper, which is on the global steering committee of Climate Action 100+, last week warned that industry associations needed to do more than pay lip service to climate change.

Andrew Gray, AustralianSuper’s head of environmental, social and governance issues, said investment risks were elevated in an environment where companies with strong climate commitments were undermined by industry groups lobbying for different outcomes.

“A lot will have high-level statements that they agree with Paris but then the substance below that is often not what it needs to be,” Mr Gray said.

“It is a valid investment issue and this is all about about managing investment risk.”

Liberal senator James Paterson on Wednesday accused AustralianSuper of attempting to stifle alternative political views.

“It is not the role of a super fund to ruthlessly police the public policy positions of civil society organisations,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

“This smacks of a ham-fisted attempt to stifle alternative political views by a fund which should be solely focused on delivering the best returns for its members.

“AustralianSuper has never consulted its members about whether they want it to use their retirement savings as a blunt instrument to regulate public debate.”

The Minerals Council statement, attributed to chief executive Tania Constable, said member companies understood the need to plan for “potential future environmental changes which might affect their businesses and the regional communities in which they operate”.

“The Australian minerals sector supports a transition to a low emissions global economy,” it said.

“This includes practical actions to support Australia’s commitment to global agreements such as the Paris Agreement, which would hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.”

Rio Tinto previously threatened to quit the Minerals Council if it made statements contradicting the Paris Agreement.

BHP is reviewing its membership of all industry organisations. It also faces a shareholder resolution at its upcoming AGM.

The resolution, put forward by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, would require BHP to reconsider its membership of the Minerals Council, along with the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the Queensland Resources Council and NSW Minerals Council.

The resolution is co-sponsored by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, several overseas pension funds and Vision Super locally.

ACCR’s website says BHP positions itself as a climate champion yet continues to belong to associations engaging in advocacy that “runs counter to BHP’s stated climate policies and objectives, and undermines Australia’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement”.

It says the Minerals Council has advocated for new coal-fired power stations and funded pro-coal advertising on Facebook and in The Australian newspaper, as well as sharing key staff with pro-coal lobby group Coal21.

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