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Rio Tinto and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

October 28, 2021

The AWU has cautiously welcomed Rio Tinto’s announcement that it will dramatically slash its greenhouse gas emissions and halve its direct global carbon footprint by 2030.

Rio Tinto has more than tripled its 2030 carbon-reduction target from 15 per cent to 50 per cent and will spend about $10 billion on decarbonisation investments by the end of the decade.

AWU National Secretary Dan Walton says it’s essential that Rio Tinto’s plans are used to create Australian jobs, not eliminate them.

“In the past when faced with major challenges we have mismanaged change, and as a result thousands of Australian jobs have gone offshore,” Mr Walton says.

“We can’t afford to let that happen this time. We must be using the transition to a carbon-free world as an opportunity to grow mining and manufacturing and with it, Australian jobs”

Mr Walton says Rio Tinto just delivered a record first-half profit of $US12.1 billion, and should now use its financial might to stand by its workers and take them on this new journey.

“Rio Tinto’s huge carbon announcement is recognition that our mining and manufacturing industries are critical elements in Australia’s energy transition,” he says.

“The AWU and its members stand ready to work with Rio Tinto on how their highly-skilled workforce can contribute to this change.

“And if there are workforce impacts the company must consult about them.”

Rio Tinto plans to build new wind and solar power to help replace other energy sources in its vast iron ore mines. But while it is pushing ahead with similar plans to power its Boyne Island and Tomago aluminium smelters, in Queensland and NSW, it will need a robust “firming” power to keep the plants running 24/7.

Mr Walton says cheap, reliable power is essential to Australian manufacturing, and points to planned gas-fired power as a logical stepping stone on the way to the obvious long-term solution: hydrogen.

“Australia has the potential to be a first mover and export green iron ore, steel and aluminium to the world at a premium – but we need to work with our industries to make this transition,” he says.

“If we don’t provide manufacturing with the reliable, constant power it needs then Australian factories will shut.

“So we need bridging solutions such as natural gas-fired power stations, which will create big opportunities down the track by eventually switching to potentially limitless green hydrogen.”

Mr Walton says other elements of Rio Tinto’s carbon plans cannot be used as an excuse to stealthily cut corners and cut jobs.

For example, the company says more than half of the emissions from its iron ore division come from its trains, trucks and heavy machinery, so it plans to pilot its first zero-emission trucks and locomotives by 2025 and will stop buying diesel-powered equipment by 2030.

“This is potentially great news for the environment, but we are wary that moving to electrification of trucks and trains could be used as an excuse to ramp up automation and slash jobs,” Mr Walton says

“As a result the AWU has and will continue to keep an eye on Rio Tinto’s load and haul automation processes, in order to protect our members’ jobs.”

We’re proud to represent Rio TInto workers across Australia, and will back you in to make sure your job remains secure. If you’re not already with us, join today.

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