Tech billionaire backs new demand on BHP over climate action

Mike Cannon-Brookes. Photo: Katie Barget | TEDxSydney

Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes’ private investment vehicle is among backers of a new demand on BHP Group to suspend ties with industry groups that are seen as hindering efforts to meet global climate change goals.

Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures, Denmark’s MP Pension and the Church of England Pensions Board are among investors holding assets worth about A$140 billion ($95 billion) who’ve backed a shareholder resolution filed by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility ahead of BHP’s forthcoming annual meetings, the signatories said in a statement Wednesday.

“Until BHP stops funding for coal lobbyists, we’re extremely skeptical of their environmental or green credentials”

Mike Cannon-Brookes

Melbourne-based BHP should suspend membership of industry associations that carry out lobbying or other work that’s at odds with the Paris climate accord, the ACCR said, citing activities by groups including the Minerals Council of Australia and the Business Council of Australia.

“Until BHP stops funding for coal lobbyists, we’re extremely skeptical of their environmental or green credentials,” Cannon-Brookes said in the statement.

BHP, scheduled to hold an annual meeting in the U.K. in October and in Australia in November, declined to comment. A resolution on industry group links filed by the ACCR to BHP’s annual meetings in 2017 won about 9% of votes cast and was rejected.

The producer, which supports the Paris goals and says it has taken action on global warming for two decades, has targets to curb its own carbon dioxide emissions and plans to support customers’ efforts to take similar steps with a $400 million investment program. “Global warming is indisputable,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said in a London speech in July. “The planet will survive. Many species may not.”

BHP last year quit the World Coal Association and said in 2017 it would monitor advocacy by other groups, including the Minerals Council of Australia, following a review of its involvement in 21 associations.

Efforts to constrain activities of some groups have been ineffective, according to the ACCR. The organization has also called on other companies, including Rio Tinto Group, to review its ties to industry associations.

“Suspension of memberships where advocacy is inconsistent with Paris is the only sensible way forward,” the group’s executive director Brynn O’Brien said in the statement.

(By David Stringer, with assistance from Steven Frank)

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