BHP says UN climate change conference to deliver consensus

“I think we can build a very profitable and successful company in a world that commits itself more strongly to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees.” : BHP chief Andrew Mackenzie. Photo: Stefan PostlesBHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie says he expects some level of consensus to emerge when world leaders gather in Paris in November for the United Nations climate change conference.

Speaking from London on Tuesday, Mr Mackenzie said BHP expected to play its part in region by region climate targets, should consensus for such targets emerge from the Paris conference.

“We think there will be a degree of consensus around a range of region by region, or country by country, targets, and we will be very much part of that,” he said.

“I think we can build a very profitable and successful company in a world that commits itself more strongly to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees.”

Despite being one of the world’s biggest coal miners and a major producer of oil and gas, BHP has long accepted science that suggests humans are influencing the climate by releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

But the company has walked a policy tightrope in recent years, and campaigned for Australia’s carbon tax to be repealed on the grounds that it harmed the international competitiveness of Australian exporters.

It has also argued that fossil fuels will continue to be the energy source of choice for many in the developing world, despite the challenges of climate change.

BHP has been investing heavily in carbon capture and storage and hopes it can be proved viable and can allow long term use of coal.

“We have a portfolio that I think can respond to whatever is the most effective way to decarbonise the energy sector and it is not just simply down to the sources of the energy but the technology that abates things and the regulation that actually encourages things,” said Mr Mackenzie on Tuesday.

“We are in everything, whether it is nuclear power (uranium), or copper which does best with windmills and solar, or of course all forms of fossil fuels and we do invest in things like carbon capture and storage so I think we are able to respond.”

Fossil fuel producers have been split in the lead-up to the Paris conference, with big energy companies like Woodside Petroleum and Norwegian company Statoil urging the world to abandon coal in favour of gas as a way to reduce emissions.

Mr Mackenzie has been one of several coal producers to criticise the comments, labelling it a “marketing strategy” and a “rich country solution”.

“I think there is a marketing ploy, which is ‘give up coal and burn more gas’,” Mr Mackenzie told the FT.

“The last time I looked there was plenty of carbon in methane and there is huge amounts of carbon in oil, and the carbon emissions from transport are just as much a problem as the carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Australia has vowed to reduce carbon emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent from 2005 levels, and do so by 2030.