World’s top miner BHP quits global coal group over climate stance

BHP chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie. (Image courtesy of PwC Australia | YouTube.)

World’s number one miner BHP (ASX:BHP) confirmed Thursday it has decided to leave the World Coal Association (WCA) over differences on climate change, but said it will keep its affiliation to the US Chamber of Commerce, which was also under review.

The miner, which publicly supports the Paris climate accord, first signalled its intent to potentially leave the global coal-lobbying group last year, as part of a review of all its memberships to industry groups.

BHP said at the time it wanted to ensure the associations it belonged to aligned with the company’s climate and energy stance, which includes tackling global warming through emission reductions.

“In light of the material difference identified by the review and the narrow range of activities of benefit to BHP from membership, BHP has reached a final view that it will cease membership of the WCA,” it said in the statement.

BHP said the WCA’s policy conflicted with its view that energy markets should be fuel- and technology-neutral and take into account costs and benefits.

The WCA said it was disappointed at BHP’s decision to leave the group, based on “one claimed material policy difference”. It added that the association supported a balanced approach that integrates climate and energy policy, which works towards a low emission future.

“BHP is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal. We have compared our position on energy and climate policies with those set out in BHP’s Industry Association Review, and believe there are no material differences between the two,” WCA chief executive, Benjamin Sporton, said in the statement.

BHP’s move follows pressure from Australian environmental groups, which last year lobbied for the company to quit associations whose policies did not line up with its stance on climate change.

Under scrutiny

The Melbourne, Australia-based mining giant also considered withdrawing from the US Chamber of Commerce over its rejection of the Paris Agreement and a carbon-pricing policy. But in today’s statement it said it would remain a member to benefit from the body’s advocacy on free trade and tax reform.

Coal makes up for about 20% of BHP’s revenue, but the miner is targeting net zero emissions from its operations in the second half of this century.

“In particular BHP notes the position the chamber has taken on issues of policy significance including its commentary on the issue of steel and aluminium tariffs in the United States,” it noted.

The firm also said it would work with the Minerals Council of Australia to advocate policies aligned with its own.

The Paris Climate Accord is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change. It set out a global action plan to put the world on track to limiting global warming to well below 2°C

Australia is among the US trade partners exempted from President Donald Trump’s contentious tariffs on steel and aluminum imports announced last month.

Coal currently makes up for about 20% of BHP’s revenue, but the miner is targeting net zero emissions from its operations in the second half of this century.

Rival Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) last week fully exited the coal industry, after completing the sale of more than $4 billion coal assets in Australia.