Hard-to-abate no more? BHP, Cargill set new visions for decarbonisation

Mining and metals giant BHP and agri-food multinational Cargill have unveiled ambitious new decarbonisation targets, in a sign that hard-to-abate sectors are beginning to bolster their climate ambitions.

Hard-to-abate no more? BHP, Cargill set new visions for decarbonisation

BHP operates across three of the world's most carbon-intense sectors: Minerals

BHP’s new commitment will see the company develop a science-based target for its Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (energy-related) emissions within the next two years. The company is already targeting a short-term goal of capping its absolute carbon emissions at 2017 levels through to 2022, with the science-based target due to offer more long-term direction.

In order to drive progress on both its existing and upcoming targets, BHP has launched a five-year climate investment programme to spur the development and uptake of low-emission mining technologies. The fund consists of $400m (£324m) of the company’s own money.

BHP’s chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the funding programme will “drive investment in nature-based solutions and encourage further collective action on Scope 3 (indirect) emissions”.

“We must take a product stewardship role for emissions across our value chain and commit to work with shippers, processors and users of our products to reduce scope three emissions,” Mackenzie said.

BHP will additionally begin linking emission reductions to executive pay from 2021 – a move which has already been taken by the likes of Sandvik and Royal Dutch Shell – and undertake 2C scenario analysis ahead of its inaugural climate portfolio analysis report, due to be published in 2020. Scenario analysis is a key facet of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations for aligning climate risks and opportunities with financial performance.

Cargill’s carbon commitments

Cargills new low-carbon commitments, meanwhile, will see the company target a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) intensity across its beef supply chain by 2030.

The target, called “BeefUp Sustainability”, has been set against a 2017 baseline and will see the business focusing on four key areas: grazing management, feed production, innovation and food waste reduction.

As a first step, Cargill will expand its partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to further address water use, wildlife preservation and carbon sequestering at cattle ranches. Cargill will also begin collaborating more closely with individual farmers and ranchers to demonstrate how grazing management planning and adaptive management improves sustainability and financial outcomes.

Additionally, the company – which has 160,000 employees across 70 markets – will sponsor the Yield Lab Institute’s Manure Innovation Challenge. This scheme is aimed at connecting start-ups with large companies to create a more circular economy for the nutrients, fibre and energy found in manure.

“This initiative builds on the strong environmental stewardship work already led by farmers and ranchers,” Cargill’s lead for protein in North America Jon Nash said. “Together, we can expand current sustainable agricultural practices to make a meaningful difference.”

The new commitments from Cargill come at a time when GHG emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 15% of the global total. This figure is set to hit 80% of the planet’s carbon budget by 2050 as the global population grows to reach 10 billion people – who will need to be fed in in a more sustainable way than at present.

Indeed, none of the industry’s major corporates have aligned themselves with the Paris Agreement’s flagship goal of limiting the world’s temperature increase to 1.5C, with only 28% of the world’s largest 60 intensive farming firms having to set any plans for climate risk mitigation.

Sarah George

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