Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson said climate change represents the greatest long-term threat to the mining giant’s business and the company is determined to be part of the solution.

Addressing shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in London on Wednesday, Mr Thompson said Rio now had a clear understanding of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the climate-change resilience of its major operating assets and core infrastructure.

“During 2019, we will develop new targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions produced by our operations, to replace our existing targets when they expire in 2020,” he said.

Earlier this year, Rio published its first climate change report in line with the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure.

Mr Thompson said achieving the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal to limit global warming to less than 2C would require both companies and governments to address the threat of climate change with greater urgency and ambition.

Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques told shareholders the materials Rio produced would play a vital role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“An average onshore wind turbine contains nearly five tonnes of copper, and 160 tonnes of steel, and a typical electric vehicle has 80 kilograms of copper and 36 kilograms of nickel,” he said.

Mr Jacques said the company was well placed to supply the green materials of the future and was working hard to reduce its footprint, as evidenced by the company’s recent exit from its coal businesses.

“Today, 71 per cent of the electricity used across our business comes from clean, renewable energy sources, and we are investing more in this, with small-scale solar demonstration projects across more than 20 of our sites,” he said.

In February, Rio exceeded expectations with full-year net earnings of US$13.64 billion ($19 billion) and US$7.1 billion ($9.9 billion) in returns to shareholders.

Image: Rio Tinto staff at the port facilities on East Intercourse Island, The West Australian.