Mining executive-turned board nominee Ian Dunlop will tell BHP Billiton’s shareholders this week that the company is headed for oblivion unless it acts on climate change.
Mr Dunlop faces an uphill battle in becoming the 14th member of a board that recommended against his election. He will tell BHP’s AGM in Perth on Thursday that the world’s biggest miner should stop or greatly reduce much of what it is doing: mining and drilling fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
If sufficient action is not taken then companies such as BHP will not exist anyway, with Germany’s Potsdam Institute predicting catastrophic, deadly four degree Celsius temperature rises this century – unprecedented in human history.
“This issue has to be forced because governments and politicians are never going to address this issue, that’s been patently obvious over the last 20 years,” he told AAP.
“Business groups have to find and design solutions and implement them in their own self interest, which has nothing to do with saving the planet.
“If they don’t do it then they don’t have a business because you can’t do business in a world where temperatures have gone up 4C, it’s just not possible.”
He is backed by some BHP shareholders, including America’s largest public pension fund CalPERS (CalPERS) and Australia’s Local Government Super.
Mr Dunlop says starting the conversation has been worth it but is unlikely to win a board spot this year at least, with chairman Jac Nasser dismissing him as a single-issue candidate who would not add to its effectiveness.
The 71-year-old ran Royal Dutch Shell’s Australian coal business and was an oil and gas executive during a 27-year career there and headed the Australian Coal Association.
He says climate change was spoken about in the industry as far back as the 1960s but the hard evidence had greatly improved since then.
What science has been saying has been coming true, he says, with Australia’s and the world’s temperatures regularly breaking record highs in recent years and extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines occurring.
“There comes a point when you just have to say: we have to stop what we’ve been doing,” he says.
He says the political establishment in Australia is in denial, repealing the carbon tax and increasing coal and gas exports. Therefore as the world’s biggest carbon emitters, business had to take the lead, acting progressively and planning for the long-term.
That means developing new technologies: thermal and coking coal would have to go, but iron ore and uranium still had futures and so would oil and gas but energy efficiency and renewable energy had to grow.
BHP as a global wind and solar power giant maybe?.
“BHP has access to the best possible science and they have got the resources to pay for it and get the best people in to give them advice,” Mr Dunlop said.