Some six months after being named on a list of the world’s top 10 most powerful climate policy opponents, the Minerals Council of Australia has unveiled its very own Climate Action Plan, in what it describes as part of an “ongoing commitment” to decarbonising Australia’s economy.
In a statement on Monday, the MCA said the plan outlined how the peak industry body and its members were taking action on climate change, and the minerals sector’s collective commitment to the Paris Agreement and its goal of net-zero emissions globally and in Australia.
The plan’s three core objectives, the MCA said, were to enable the potential of technology to decarbonise the minerals sector, to increase transparency in reporting from member companies, and to share practical knowledge on climate responses.
The Action Plan also underscores the myriad opportunities available to the sector in this transition to low-carbon technologies, which the MCA says “would not occur” without minerals and raw materials provided by the Australian mining sector.
“Sustained climate action across all nations is required to reduce the risks of human-induced climate change and to support world-wide decarbonisation as the world transforms to a lower emissions future,” a statement accompanying the plan said.
“With this plan, the sector acknowledges the critical importance of technology in reducing emissions. The minerals industry works with manufacturing and innovation partners to invent, develop and deploy new techniques and technologies.”
But not everyone is convinced. After all, the MCA’s role as a local climate policy speed hump, and its strong ties with the climate policy lite federal Coalition government, are well documented in Australia and on RenewEconomy. Its former CEO and deputy CEO are key players in prime minister Scott Morrison’s advisory team.
The MCA handbrake on climate policy has also been recognised internationally, with UK-based thinktank InfluenceMap ranking the Minerals Council at number 8 on its 2019 list of the world’s most impactful climate policy opponents.
And according to the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), the MCA’s failure to articulate any tangible steps for its Climate Action Plan suggests that nothing much has changed.
In a scathing review of the plan, the ACCR points to the lack of any firm commitment to carbon pricing or any broader policies to decarbonise; any tangible dates and milestones for full decarbonisation, specifically beyond operations and regarding Scope 3 emissions from their products; any detail regarding the emissions from coal mining, and; any mention of phasing out coal mining or coal-fired power.
Instead, the plan makes vaguely worded commitments to “support zero emissions,” to “positively engage in relevant climate agendas and public consultation processes,” and to “engage productively in the business of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change including the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
“Renewable energy” rates less than half-a-dozen mentions in the entire document, most of which are focused on the sector’s continued embrace of solar and wind at the mine site (ditto to electric vehicles).
The focus, instead, appears to be on developing and deploying “low emissions technologies,” in line with both the federal government’s Technology Roadmap and the MCA’s own, which it says it has plans to develop.
Even more worryingly, these low-emissions technologies include “proven, safe and reliable Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS),” and “advanced nuclear solutions.”
All said, the plan falls well short of having any sort of substance, and well short, even, of the climate commitments of some of its more prominent members.
Just last week, leading iron ore company Fortescue Metals Group – controlled by billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest – announced a zero “operational” emissions target by 2040, and pledged to support the Paris “well below” 2°C climate target – suggesting that the whole Australian economy should do the same.
“What type of plan is this without any dates or targets?” Asks the ACCR’s director of climate and the environment, Dan Gocher, before answering his own question.
“This is embarrassing and woefully inadequate: the MCA can’t even commit to net zero emissions by any date,” he adds.
“Investors will be sorely disappointed. … This policy represents business as usual and further delays to action. Investors must call time on this farce.”