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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth-largest iron ore miner, has set an ambitious plan to become carbon neutral by 2030, bringing forward the target by 10 years as it aims to start producing green hydrogen as soon as 2023.
Fortescue Chairman Andrew Forrest predicted the world's conversion to green energy and green products would occur "almost violently" compared to most forecasts, which assumed hydrogen produced from renewable energy would only become commercially viable in the 2030s.
"As of today's announcement, all those calculations will have to change," Forrest told reporters in a media call on Monday.
Fortescue gave no cost estimate for achieving its goal and said it was still working to calculate how much hydrogen it would need to meet the carbon neutral target. Forrest said the company would only use carbon offsets as a last resort to help meet the goal.
"Fortescue is now firmly leading corporate Australia with this commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2030, without reliance on offsets," the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility said in a statement.
"However, the commitment has not set a target for the Scope 3 emissions from steel production, which is easily the largest part of its carbon footprint."
Unlike its peers, Fortescue does not disclose estimates of customer emissions, so-called scope 3, arguing that would be double counting under the United Nations framework, which mandates nations take responsibility for emissions within their borders.
Fortescue Future Industries aims to produce green hydrogen and green ammonia which would help it replace 1 billion litres a year of diesel at the miner's own operations while also creating clean fuel alternatives for others, including steel makers who use metallurgical coal.
"I don't think there'll be a coal-fired blast furnace in operation by 2050, period," Forrest told reporters.
Green hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel made by using renewable power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. It is increasingly promoted as a way to decarbonise emissions-intensive heavy industry and long haul transport.
The announcement comes as peers Rio Tinto and BHP Group step up their drive towards renewable energy, and investors increasingly press firms to disclose, track and meet emissions targets.
Fortescue said it would incorporate carbon emission targets into its short- and long-term pay incentives across the company.
(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sonali Paul and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jacqueline Wong)