Rio Tinto Energy Boss Calls for a Price on Carbon
A surprising admission from one of the world’s largest mining companies. Transition to a low-emission global economy is “vital”, says Rio Tinto’s energy chief Doug Ritchie. He also said climate change “represents uncertainty and potential volatility to the mining industry”. But a price on carbon is necessary to encourage the development of low-emissions technology and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Ritchie told a coal industry conference in Brisbane.
David Fickling on Dow Jones Newswires (16 August 2010):
Transition to a low-emission global economy is “vital”, Rio Tinto’s Doug Ritchie said today.
At the same time, the miner’s energy chief said climate change “represents uncertainty and potential volatility to the mining industry”.
A price on carbon is necessary to encourage the development of low-emissions technology and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Ritchie told a coal industry conference in Brisbane.
Rio Tinto is one of Australia’s largest producers of the thermal coal used in energy generation and of the coking coal used in steelmaking, alongside Xstrata PLC and BHP Billiton.
Australia’s mining industry campaigned heavily against the country’s proposed emissions trading scheme ahead of the Copenhagen climate change conference last year.
The law was eventually blocked in the senate after the government’s opposition deposed its leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who supported the legislation, in favour of current leader Tony Abbott.
Most mining companies claim to support Australia’s climate change efforts, while opposing the specific legislation proposed by Canberra.
Mr Ritchie criticised the approach of many companies to such issues.
“It’s not enough to just complain about our legislators having short-term, politically expedient policies,” he said.
“Yes, we need long-term vision from our policy-makers to address the big issues – however, this is where we need to work together as an industry to help create awareness, informed debate, and meaningful discourse.”
However, Mr Ritchie said that, while the future of energy needs to be about “sustainable practices” that would lead to “a carbon-neutral world”, policy measures need to be gradual to succeed.
A doubling of the cost of power to reduce emissions “would not be a vote winner”, he said, adding that domestic electricity bills had risen by 30 per cent in the last two years to fund new electricity infrastructure.