THE Church of England Pensions Board is part of the group of shareholders that has filed a resolution against Rio Tinto in an effort to change the part it plays in the climate-change debate, and to get it to leave coal lobbying groups.
The Pensions Board, along with the Australian Local Government Super Fund, and the Seventh Swedish National Pension Fund, have filed a shareholder motion calling on the Australian mining company to review its membership of the Minerals Council of Australia, NSW Minerals Council, and the Queensland Resources Council, who are all alleged to be involved in slowing progress on solutions to climate change.
The shareholders, who own £47 billion in shares in Rio Tinto, are working with the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) in its bid to make the mining company reform its partnerships.
The executive director of the ACCR, Brynn O’Brien, told The Guardian last week that “we think this is really in the company’s interest; so the board should support it and recommend that shareholders vote for it”.
The head of engagement for the Pensions Board, Adam Matthews, said last Friday: “It is a matter of public record that Rio Tinto has supported the Paris Agreement and limiting climate change to two degrees. However, that position is undermined when industry associations and lobbying groups, financially supported by Rio Tinto, take contrary lobbying positions
“For Rio Tinto to be part of the solution to climate change requires consistency in all the company’s activities, and from the organisations it supports to lobby on its behalf.”
A Christian climate-change charity, Operation Noah, supported the move. It said on Tuesday: “We welcome the fact that the Church of England is challenging companies that are lobbying against action on climate change.
“Major oil and gas companies also support trade associations that lobby for weaker climate targets. To be consistent, the Church of England should apply the same pressure to these companies, including divestment from any company lobbying for weaker climate-change legislation.”
The head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, Edward Mason, told the Telegraph on Sunday that “we need the products of the mining industry, they are very much the foundations of modern life, but it’s a high-risk sector and it’s important that ethical, social and environmental issues are handled responsibly by mining companies”.
The Church Commissioners fund, a separate entity from the Pensions Board, previously challenged Rio Tinto in 2009 over its treatment of indigenous people, and has attempted to cause a shareholder revolt at ExxonMobil (News, 23 April 2009 and 3 June 2016).