BHP Threatens Exit from Coal Lobby, Chamber of Commerce -- Update

By Adam Clark Features Dow Jones Newswires

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest Western mining company, is threatening to leave the World Coal Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce over disagreements on climate policy, the latest commodity firm to react to pressure on global warming.

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The British-Australian company--among the world's biggest coal producers --said it disagreed with the association's call for Australia to abandon its clean-energy targets and promote the use of lower-emission coal. BHP said it differed from the Chamber of Commerce's characterization of the Paris climate agreement as ineffectual and the business group's opposition to taxing carbon emissions.

"We believe the Paris Agreement provides a solid long-term foundation for further progress in the global response to climate change," BHP said Tuesday. The company pledged earlier this year to review its memberships in industry associations that hold public stances on climate and energy policy.

BHP's announcement comes amid changing public stances on climate-change policy from the world's biggest energy companies as they try to present themselves as part of the solution for governments and consumers demanding more environmentally friendly energy.

A consortium of 10 big oil companies--including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC and Saudi Arabia's national energy firm--formed the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative to pool knowledge and collaborate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon Mobil Corp. last month joined Shell and six other major oil companies in moving to reduce pollution from natural gas production.

In response to BHP's announcement, the World Coal Association said it was disappointed and felt BHP's review didn't accurately reflect its views. The London-based World Coal Association is a global lobbyist for coal producers, with its members accounting for 20% of global coal production, including Anglo American PLC and Glencore PLC.

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"The WCA has always supported a balanced approach that integrates climate and energy policy; working toward a low-emission future for coal. We hope to be able to continue working with BHP on this basis in the future," said the association's chairman, Mick Buffier.

The Chamber of Commerce said it looked forward to discussing the issues with BHP.

"The chamber believes that the climate is changing, and that man is contributing to these changes," the group said in an email. "We also believe that technology and innovation, rather than unachievable federal mandates, offer the best approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change."

The chamber has warned that U.S. commitments under the Paris agreement could raise energy prices for Americans. President Donald Trump has said he would end the American commitments made at the Paris agreement if he couldn't negotiate more favorable terms.

BHP said it has reached a preliminary view to leave the World Coal Association, but invited the group to respond by March 31 before the company makes a final decision on its membership.

The miner said only that it was "considering" its continued membership in the Chamber of Commerce and would talk to the Washington-based group before a decision on March 31.

BHP said it also identified differences with the Minerals Council of Australia, but has decided to remain a member of the body. It said it would, however, request that the council refrain from policy activity in areas where it disagrees, and review its membership of the body if this hasn't happened within a reasonable period.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a nonprofit group that advises on ethical investments, offered tempered praise for BHP's announcement. Executive Director Brynn O'Brien criticized BHP's continued Minerals Council of Australia membership but called the overall message "an emphatic market signal that the era of aggressive anti-climate lobbying is no longer acceptable."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 10:34 ET (15:34 GMT)