7 May 2020
Media release: Rio comes under pressure on climate at AGM
Rio Tinto has come under pressure at its AGM regarding its approach to climate lobbying at its Australian AGM, held virtually on May 7.
Questions were put to Rio Tinto by Jack Egan, who lost his home in the recent Australian bushfires, and activist group 350.org Australia, regarding the company’s continued membership of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).
Responding to the questions, Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson conceded that recent MCA advocacy has undermined the Paris Agreement, but committed to nonetheless remain a member of the lobby group.
According to 350.org Australia CEO Lucy Manne, “Rio Tinto wants to be seen as a climate leader, but it insists on continuing as the single largest financial contributor to the Minerals Council of Australia – one of the most notorious climate-wrecking lobby groups in the world.”
In the past three weeks, 350 Australia has conducted an anonymous survey of Rio Tinto employees via LinkedIn, asking staff of the mining giant to reveal their views on climate change and their employer’s continued membership of known climate-policy opponent the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).
Over 100 employees have completed the survey. So far a majority of respondents (59%) have indicated they are concerned or very concerned about climate change, and only 39% say they think Rio should remain a member of the MCA, with 40% saying they think Rio should leave the industry association on climate grounds, and 21% undecided or unsure.
According to 350 Australia CEO Lucy Manne, this internal division is an indication that Rio is out of step with its employees, and Rio should send a strong signal to the MCA by throwing its support behind a Covid-19 economic recovery that prioritises projects in line with the Paris Agreement.
“It’s been clear for years that Rio’s investors want the company to walk the walk on climate change, and it’s now clear that a substantial proportion of Rio’s staff feel the same way. Rio Tinto had an opportunity at this AGM to draw a line in the sand and withdraw from the Minerals Council of Australia – but they refused. We, the community, and importantly their employees, are determined to see Rio cut all ties with the MCA for good.”
At the AGM, the Chairman Simon Thompson discussed the need to restart the economy by focusing on creating long-term and sustainable jobs, but did not commit to ensuring Rio Tinto’s industry associations advocate for sustainability at the core of the economic recovery.
Lucy Manne said, “While the rest of the world moves towards clean economic recovery initiatives that prioritise the Paris Agreement goals, the Minerals Council has been calling for slashing environmental regulation and tax cuts for corporations. Rio needs to send a strong message that this is unacceptable.”
Rio Tinto quietly released its 2019 Industry Association Disclosure in March, failing to walk away from the Minerals Council of Australia despite the review finding “instances of public commentary and advocacy” from the Minerals Council that “is inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
350 Australia held a virtual “rally” ahead of the AGM on Thursday morning, and has collected more than 15,000 signatures on a petition calling on Rio Tinto to leave the MCA.
More information on the Minerals Council of Australia’s climate blocking activities can be found at http://cutallties.350.org.au/
Lucy Manne, 350 Australia CEO
0417 387 516