Environmental groups say Glencore greenwashing as it expands Australian coal mining

Global coal giant Glencore is the target of greenwashing allegations over its claims that it is on a path to net zero emissions while increasing coal mining activities in Australia.

The Environmental Defenders Office has lodged a legal complaint against the resources giant, alleging misleading claims on climate impact and its behaviour towards Traditional Owners.

The complaint was filed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission under the Corporations Act on behalf of The Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People (PCWP) and Lock the Gate Alliance, the EDO said.

The groups are calling for an investigation of 11 statements by Glencore over its plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Glencore operates 17 coal mines in Australia, making it the nation’s largest coal producer.

By disclosing net zero targets that fail to align with pathways to net zero emissions by 2050, Glencore’s climate change commitments give a false impression about how the business is working to achieve a sustainable transition, the complaint alleges.

“With the urgency of the need to act on climate change, there is also a corresponding boom in greenwashing by companies to prove their climate credentials,” said Kirsty Ruddock, managing lawyer for EDO’s Safe Climate – Corporate and Commercial team.

“Glencore’s new campaign declares that the coal giant is laying the foundations for a low carbon future,” Ruddock said. “On the contrary, Glencore has active plans to dramatically expand coal production and keep digging Australian coal for decades to come.”

The ACCC declined comment on the matter.  ASIC could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bloomberg has reported that Glencore is undertaking an expansion of its Hail Creek coal mine which scientists have estimated leaks so much planet-wrecking methane each year it has the same warming impact as the annual emissions from millions of cars.

Despite this and other coal mine expansions and start-ups,  Glencore publicly claims to have decarbonisation plans in place.

EDO’s legal investigation found no evidence to support these claims, according to Ruddock.

Glencore on its website states that it aims to be a net zero total emissions company by 2050 via a 15 percent reduction in total emissions by 2026, rising to a 50 percent reduction by 2035, followed by an “ambition” to achieve net zero total emission by 2050.

Glencore could be immediately reached for comment.

Environmental, social and governance is an emerging area and a new priority for the ACCC, which earlier this year released a list of compliance and enforcement priorities that underscore a strong focus on misleading environmental and sustainability claims.

For its part, ASIC Commissioner Sean Hughes in July stated that greenwashing will ‘”remain a priority area of focus” for the regulator and that ASIC will continue to monitor the market for potential violations.

Lawyers from London-based ClientEarth are supporting and assisting the EDO, while also calling on Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority to act, given the coal giant’s parent company, Glencore plc, is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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