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Rio Tinto has unveiled a $10 billion plan to lower emissions between 2022 and 2030, including work on technologies for carbon-free aluminium and green steel.

The company has revealed a new target to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, more than tripling its previous target.

A 15 per cent reduction in emissions is now targeted for 2025, five years earlier than previously slated.

Rio Tinto also plans to pour more money into areas of its business that will feed the world’s march towards net zero emissions.

It said it would prioritise growth capital in commodities vital for the transition with an ambition to double growth capex to about $4 billion ($US3 billion) a year from 2023.

“Rio Tinto is taking action to strengthen our business and improve our performance by unleashing the full potential of our people and assets, working in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said.

“All our commodities are vital for the energy transition and continue to benefit from ongoing urbanisation. We have a clear pathway to decarbonise our business and are actively developing technologies that will enable our customers and our customers’ customers to decarbonise.

“We are able to do this, while continuing to provide attractive returns to our shareholders in line with our policy, because we have a strong balance sheet and world-class assets that deliver strong free cash flows through the cycle.”

The $10 billion ($US7.5 billion) in direct capital expenditure to be ploughed into decarbonising Rio Tinto’s assets from 2022 to 2030, will have a focus on renewable power for iron ore in the Pilbara and for the Australian aluminium smelters.

The company will kick off with a $0.5 billion per year spend in this area from 2022 to 2024.

Rio Tinto Aluminium is progressing options to switch the Boyne Island smelter at Gladstone and Tomago smelter in New South Wales to renewable energy.

It said this would require an estimated 5GW (equity basis) of solar and wind power, along with a robust firming solution.

Development of ELYSIS technology to eliminate carbon emissions from the smelting process is progressing, with commercial scale technology on track for 2024.

ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Alcoa and Rio Tinto that is developing technology known as inert anode to eliminate all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produce oxygen.

Rio Tinto predicted a positive outlook for the aluminium market driven by continued demand growth and supply-side constraints including ongoing pressures on fossil-fuel sourced energy.

At its iron ore operations in the Pilbara, decarbonisation will be accelerated by targeting the rapid deployment of 1GW of wind and solar power.

The company said full electrification of its Pilbara system, including all trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, would require further gigawatt-scale renewable deployment and advances in fleet technologies.

Options to provide a greener steelmaking pathway for Pilbara iron ore are being investigated, including with biomass and hydrogen.

Rio Tinto flicks the switch on emissions