BHP Billiton boss Andrew Mackenzie has defended the resource company's environmental credentials in the face of criticism from a former chairman of the Australian Coal Association.
Ian Dunlop, now an environmental campaigner, is standing for election to the company's board, claiming BHP doesn't understand the threat posed by dangerous climate change.
"Climate change is relevant to us all," Mr Mackenzie said on Thursday at the company's annual meeting in London. "As a significant user of energy, we are working to drive down our greenhouse gas intensity and we are seeing results. Our current emissions are below our 2006 baseline despite the substantial growth of our business since then."
Mr Mackenzie, addressing his first annual meeting as chief executive after replacing Marius Kloppers earlier this year, insisted "we are environmentally responsible".
BHP is based in Melbourne, but is listed in both Australia and London. The Australian AGM will be held in November in Perth.
The company is urging shareholders to vote against Mr Dunlop's bid. Chairman Jac Nasser told the annual meeting BHP looked out at least five years when planning for board succession.
"We are confident that our board renewal process ensures that we have the right blend of skills, experience and perspectives critical to the effective oversight of BHP Billiton on behalf of shareholders," Mr Nasser said.
BHP's net profit fell 30 per cent in the 2012-13 financial year to $US10.9 billion ($12.03 billion).
Weaker commodity prices were the main cause and the company is slashing costs and capital expenditure in response.
However, Mr Nasser said that BHP continued to expect the Chinese economy to grow at more than 7 per cent next year. "China, and other emerging economies, will be the major drivers of economic growth in the long term which could deliver up to a 75 per cent increase in demand for some commodities over the next 15 years."
The chairman said the company was "confident" of continued recovery in the US, while conditions in Europe "remain challenging".