Global warming 'indisputable': BHP CEO

The chief executive of the world's largest mining company has endorsed drastic action to combat global warming, which he calls "indisputable," and an emerging crisis.

"The planet will survive. Many species may not," BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie told a business breakfast in London on Tuesday.

"This is a confronting conclusion but as a veteran geologist once said, 'you can't argue with a rock.'"

Mr Mackenzie endorsed carbon pricing but said it was not enough to combat the looming threat of mass extinctions and major sea rises.

He announced BHP was spending $US400 million ($A570m) to create a climate investment program to reduce emissions from its own operations as well as those generated from its resources.

BHP has been working to reduce its emissions since the 1990s but still directly produced 16.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions in the 2017/18 fiscal year, mostly from energy and diesel use at its operations.

That's the equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 3.5 million cars or 4.2 coal-fired power stations for a year, according to a calculator on the US Environmental Protection Agency's website.

But when one adds to the equation customers' use of BHP's products - most notably the processing of iron ore into coal and the burning of coal and crude oil - BHP's indirect emissions dwarfed that, totalling 596.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide for the fiscal year.

That's equivalent of the emissions produced in a year by 126 million cars or 153 coal-fired power plants, according to the EPA calculator.

"Use of emissions-intensive products from the resource industry have contributed significantly to global warming," Mr Mackenzie said, while noting that BHP's emissions in 2017 were less than those in 2006.

BHP has a short-term goal to cap 2022 emissions at 2017 levels, and a long-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century.

It is also strengthening the link between emissions performance and executive renumeration from 2021, and has invested $6 million in Carbon Engineering Limited, a Canadian company focused on developing ways to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Mr Mackenzie said that "like most scientists" he believes that global warming will tend to the upper end of forecasts, while conceding there was a chance it would not.

But he said prudent risk management meant BHP was planning to protect against the downside.

Mr Mackenzie said that global warming required a "coordinated global response" and no single solution could combat it.

"While we endorse a carbon price this is not enough in isolation."

Electric vehicles, renewables, reforestation and replacing single-use plastics all have trade-offs, such as simply moving fossil fuel emissions up the chain if energy production is not also decarbonised.

"An 'all of the above' solution barely gets us there," Mr Mackenzie said.

"All emitters, resource companies, customers, consumers must play their part together with governments to meet the climate challenge."


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