Rio Tinto announces $7.5bn plan to halve operational carbon emissions by 2030

Image: Rio Tinto

The business had, under its previous decarbonisation plans, targeted a 15% reduction in Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by 2030, against a 2018 baseline.

Now, it has increased that target to 50%, after the company’s chief executive Jakob Stausholm joined 27 other mining and metals firms in committing to net-zero direct emissions by 2050 earlier this month.

A 15% reduction in direct emissions against a 2018 baseline will now be delivered by 2025.

Targets for reducing its Scope 3 (indirect) emissions from customers remained unchanged. The ambition here is for a 30% reduction by 2030, against a 2018 baseline. Solutions being explored include technologies to replace coking coal with biomass or hydrogen in steelmaking.

Speaking to media representatives as the new targets were announced, Stausholm, who took up his role this January, said they would entail a “massive shift” but be necessary for “the future of Rio Tinto”.

In a subsequent statement aimed at investors, Stuasholm added: “All our commodities are vital for the energy transition and continue to benefit from ongoing urbanisation. We have a clear pathway to decarbonise our business and are actively developing technologies that will enable our customers and our customers’ customers to decarbonise.”

Rio Tinto has stated that it will aim to double the amount it spends on growth in commodities that are vital to the net-zero transition, such as cobalt, to $3bn annually from 2023.

Other key priorities for increased funding include procuring renewable energy for mining operations and for aluminium smelters; improving energy efficiency and accelerating R&D for other low-carbon solutions.

To the point on smelting, Rio Tinto has stated that it will be ready to deploy a solution for emissions-free smelting at a commercial scale from 2024. Called ELYSIS, the solution is also being supported by Apple and the Canadian Government.

A study from the Transition Pathway Initiative back in March revealed that, while Rio Tinto has taken credible steps to align with the Paris Agreement’s ‘well below 2C’ pathway, only 14% of publicly listed companies in the steel, cement, aluminium, paper and mining sectors have done so.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions from mining are estimated to be responsible for 4-7% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie