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News Corp Australia tweaks climate targets amid scrutiny of editorial line

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By Helen Coster and Byron Kaye

NEW YORK/SYDNEY, Oct. 1(Reuters) - The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has set new environmental targets, an internal email showed, shoring up employee engagement with climate issues as it prepares an editorial campaign calling for curbs on carbon emissions.

The new goals, which have not been formally announced, are incremental to previous targets for News Corp's Australian unit, but reflect a company polishing up its green credentials inside and out in a market where it has experienced fierce criticism of its coverage of climate-related issues.

"News Corp Australia has indeed been continuously reducing carbon emissions over the past 5 years, averaging 7.4% reduction a year over that time," a News Corp Australia spokesman said in an email.

With that success, he said, "we have now set new and ambitious targets we are confident are meaningful and achievable."

After some commentators at News Corp and Fox News, which is owned by Murdoch-controlled Fox Corp, questioned the role of global warming in Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020, Murdoch's son James quit the News Corp board citing editorial differences, while other staff in the country went public with complaints about its climate coverage.

Australia operations were responsible for 62% of News Corp's carbon emissions globally in the 2020 financial year, according to News Corp's "carbon footprint" report, which said that emissions for News Corp had declined 7% since the year before.

"We are re-imagining and re-powering our 1 Degree environmental program and inviting all at News Corp Australia to get involved," said the Sept. 27 email, seen by Reuters, referring to a 2007 company campaign to raise awareness of sustainability practices.

The new goals "align with the targets agreed to by our News Corp colleagues around the world", added the email to the company's 8,000 Australian staff that was signed by country CEO Michael Miller and community ambassador Penny Fowler.

The new measures, as described in the email, appear to mirror goals already established by News Corp globally, while updating environmental goals that were last set out by the Australian unit in 2017.

One goal already established by the parent company but new for News Corp Australia, according to the email, is to cut emissions in the company's supply chain by 20% by 2030. Another is to achieve zero waste to landfill across its major sites by 2025, with a special focus on reducing single-use plastic.

The email also establishes a timeline for News Corp Australia to source 100% of newsprint from certified material - by 2025 - and for reducing the company's carbon footprint by 60% by 2030.

The Australian unit is meanwhile planning a public editorial campaign to coincide with the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this month to "inform Australians about the key environmental and climate issues", according a report in the Australian.

The editorial campaign would push for Australia to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with a previously stated News Corp goal, and would mostly take place in its main metro tabloids like Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Melbourne's Herald Sun, according to media reports.

(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York and Byron Kaye in Sydney. Editing by Kenneth Li, Peter Henderson and Angus MacSwan)