Aussie businesses urged to make their voices heard on climate change
29 July 2019 at 3:59 pm
Corporate Australia is being urged to take a greater role shaping the nation’s climate change debate and influencing policy in the wake of BHP’s public pledge to reduce emissions.
BHP last week committed US$400 million (A$580 million) to develop technologies to cut emissions from its own operations and from the companies using its products such as coal, iron ore and gas.
Dan Gocher, from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, welcomed the commitment and said comments from BHP’s CEO labelling climate change as a “crisis” were promising.
But he told Pro Bono News he wanted stronger concrete targets from BHP – which has so far only promised to cap 2022 emissions at 2017 levels and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
He also called on the company to push back against the pro-coal advocacy of member groups such as the Minerals Council of Australia and the Business Council of Australia.
“BHP has reviewed its memberships of these groups. But we’re asking it to go further. These groups have to change or BHP should leave,” Gocher said.
Greens MP Adam Bandt praised BHP’s pledge but expressed dismay that the mining giant appeared to be taking climate change more seriously than the major parties.
“I never thought I’d say the words that Liberal and Labor should take a leaf out of BHP’s book, but it sounds like BHP recognises the climate emergency as a clear and present danger, unlike the old parties,” Bandt said.
Gocher agreed, and said corporate Australia needed to take a greater role in shaping the nation’s climate change debate and influencing public policy.
“We’re pushing companies to step up and make ambitious commitments on emissions while also taking a leadership role in the public debate,” he said.
“Interventions like this from the BHP are absolutely necessary and we need more companies doing it because we are in a climate crisis, and we need more companies to acknowledge that.”
Gocher said the ACCR had met with many companies that held similar views to BHP but would not go on the public record.
He said companies may be hesitant to speak publicly after the backlash AGL faced from the federal government for its planned closure of the coal-fired Liddell power plant.
But he said he was hopeful BHP’s public pledge would help turn the tide for the sector.
“The political climate is quite toxic and my expectations are that a lot of companies will still be quite tepid,” he said.
“But I think there’s safety in numbers. So maybe that’s the path forward.
“If we can persuade enough companies to take action through their industry associations… [they can] be a more positive factor in this space.”
This is not the first time BHP has taken a public stand on an issue, with the mining giant pledging its support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart in February.