UPDATE 2-BHP gets Australian shareholder support for climate plan

(Adds activist investor comment)

MELBOURNE, Nov 11 (Reuters) - BHP Group said it had won approval for its climate roadmap on Thursday, overcoming a protest vote on concerns that some of the long-term plans lacked detail, with Australia-based shareholder proxies voting 86% in favour.

The world’s biggest listed miner aims for net zero emissions by 2050 for its customers, including the heavily polluting steel industry. But BHP has stopped short of setting a target, in view of uncertainty over how technology will develop.

“BHP’s climate action transition plans are well developed and ... have been strongly endorsed by our shareholders,” Chairman Ken MacKenzie said after the results of the poll were released at its annual general meeting.

“We have clear goals and targets in place.”

BHP expected to spend $2 billion to $4 billion on the initiative by 2030, he added.

Australia-based shareholders make up 58% of BHP’s register, which is split between London and Sydney.

Proxy advisers Glass Lewis, and London’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) had recommended that investors vote against the plan, with the first saying BHP was not specific enough about disclosures of customer emissions.

“Just three weeks after Rio Tinto committed to cutting its operational emissions by 50% by 2030, BHP shareholders have rubber stamped a 2030 target that is sorely lacking in ambition ... and leaves BHP lagging behind nearly all of its global mining peers,” Dan Gocher, climate director for the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said.

BHP’s climate transition plan commits it to at least a 30% cut on its direct and indirect emissions by 2030 on 2020 levels.

Raising the stakes for its peers, Fortescue Metals Group last month set a 2040 target to achieve net zero customer emissions.

About 83% of BHP Plc’s investors voted in favour of the resolution at its annual general meeting in London last month.

BHP has also been reshaping its portfolio to better match its climate targets, saying this week it would sell a stake in BHP Mitsui Coal (BMC), a metallurgical coal joint venture in the northeastern state of Queensland.

However, it has proved tougher to shift its New South Wales energy coal business, which is now halfway through a two-year sale process, MacKenzie said.

“Cards on the table it’s challenging,” he said, in response to a question whether BHP could hold on to, and responsibly wind down, the Australian unit. “All options remain on the table.” (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alexander Smith)