The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) is commenting on BHP’s announcement that Whitehaven Coal will acquire its two Queensland coal mines, Daunia and Blackwater.
Commenting on the announcement, Naomi Hogan, Company Strategy Lead at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility said:
“BHP’s sale of its two coal mines to Whitehaven Coal is irresponsible and demonstrates a dismal failure by BHP to take into account the future impacts on financial returns associated with the systemic risks of runaway climate change.
“Instead of playing pass the parcel on emissions, BHP should have done what it did with the closure of the Mt Arthur thermal coal mine in NSW - abandon plans for divestment and close the asset itself over time. Flogging off emissions-intensive assets to buyers with weak climate credentials exposes investment portfolios to future financial risks from runaway climate change.
“Alternatively, BHP could have put in place sale conditions to enforce strong Paris-aligned climate commitments by the buyer, ultimately mitigating potential emissions increases.
“Whitehaven is now outlining to the ASX its opportunity to increase production and materially extend the life of mine at Blackwater - already one of Australia’s largest open cut coal mines. This is a clear example where real world emissions are now likely to increase due to this asset transfer.
“Any short-term windfall for investors must be measured against the systemic costs of failing to cut real world emissions in line with the timeframe science demands.”
“Whitehaven Coal is a company that appears determined to keep digging up and burning coal, while more responsible stewards race to limit global warming.
“Flogging off fossil fuel assets to climate laggards does nothing to assist the urgently required cuts to real world emissions. The sale to Whitehaven could lead to an increase in emissions, as this company does not have credible emissions reduction targets.
“Since 2020, BHP has been telling its shareholders that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is the best outcome for shareholder value. Divesting these two mines to a company which does not support the Paris Agreement serves to undermine global efforts to limit warming.
“Investors are becoming increasingly aware of the risks to investment portfolios when high-emissions assets are divested to buyers with weaker environmental and social commitments. The Investor Group on Climate Change recommends that investors engage with companies like BHP, to encourage the buyers of its emissions intensive assets “to implement climate change commitments and strategies that are at least equivalent to those of the seller”.
The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero views the managed phaseout of high emitting assets as a credible alternative to companies divesting from assets, stating that “a responsible approach for net zero committed financial institutions and companies is to manage down the GHG emissions from their portfolios, not pass them to someone else”.