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UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 welcomed to Northern Ireland

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has recently met with the UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, Nigel Topping, during a three-day visit to Northern Ireland.

Mr Topping is visiting the region to meet local businesses, farmers, city representatives, and civic society organisations to see the positive climate work being delivered locally and to raise awareness and ambition of potential action going forward.

DAERA Minister and the NI Executive’s lead for COP26, Minister Poots said:

“There is already a significant amount of good work underway in Northern Ireland to tackle climate change and reduce emissions. I am delighted that Nigel will get the opportunity to see some of this positive work during his visit to Northern Ireland.

“Many of our departments, cities, councils, businesses and industries are already taking steps towards a greener economy. As the NI Executive’s lead for COP26, I am keen for Northern Ireland to support the UK Government’s ambitions for this historic summit.”

DAERA is leading the way on a number of key initiatives that will drive climate action and help Northern Ireland support the UK’s COP26 objectives. This includes the Forest for our Future initiative, a Clean Air Strategy, a Peatlands Strategy, development the NICS Single Use Plastic Plan, the roll out of the Northern Ireland Environment Strategy, amongst other activities.

Minister Poots said:

“I recently launched ‘Sustainability for the Future - DAERA’s Plan to 2050’. A long-term plan for my Department, with sustainability at its core, setting out a vision for a healthy environment, health economy, and a healthy population and how my Department will deliver this over the next 30 years.

“My Department is also leading on the development of the Executive’s multi-decade Green Growth Strategy and Climate Action Plan as well as developing policy proposals for climate change legislation.

“Once finalised, the Green Growth strategy will be the NI Executive’s route map to addressing our climate and environmental challenges by delivering a resilient recovery and brighter future through a greener, low emissions and circular economy for Northern Ireland, whilst contributing to the wider UK Net-zero by 2050 target.”

UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, Nigel Topping, said: “On my first trip to Northern Ireland as the UK Climate Action Champion for COP26, it is encouraging to hear about the work already underway and planned and how it is feeding to the UK’s ambition for COP26 and beyond.

“I am looking forward to meeting people from across a range of sectors including agriculture, transport, local government, finance, business and civic society and being able to see first-hand their actions and innovation. Taking steps to deliver a healthy, resilient and decarbonised world is something we can all work towards together.”

Minister Poots says while it is important to champion all the positive work on-going and planned he recognises there is still work to be done:

“There are many opportunities for Northern Ireland to continue to drive climate action and reduce emissions. However, it must be done in a way that is just and does not do irreparable harm to our local economy. I am committed to Northern Ireland playing its part on a local, national and international stage to address climate change; supporting the UK COP26 objectives; and contributing to the UK hitting its net-zero target by 2050.”

Belfast’s newly installed Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl had her first engagement yesterday (Wed 2 June) when she welcomed Nigel to a meeting with senior Council staff, including Belfast City Council’s new Climate Commissioner.

They discussed the importance of local leadership in the UK to drive climate ambitions and enable the wider commitments at COP26, the United Nations climate change summit, due to take place in Glasgow this November.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said:

“Council is committed to taking action on climate change and it’s important that we look at the role local authorities have in transitioning to a low carbon and climate resilient economy. The environment is something I want to focus on during my year, so I was delighted to meet with Nigel Topping to discuss this important issue and hear his insights.

“COP26 is the world’s most significant climate summit and it is fast-approaching. It has never been more important to address how cities and local authorities can take a lead in tackling climate change and set an example to the rest of the word.”

“Belfast City Council declared a climate emergency in October 2019, and since then, it has been and will continue to be a key focus; our Resilience Strategy, the city’s first climate plan, was launched last December,” Councillor Nicholl added.

When speaking to UK100 about joining the Race To Zero pledge, Mr Topping highlighted the vital role of local authorities, saying:

“Local authorities know their communities best, so are best placed to deploy solutions that will both tackle the climate crisis and bring about a fair and just transition to a Net Zero economy.

“As part of the Race to Zero, local authorities can help advocate to national governments for the powers and support to act on their climate commitments and accelerate climate ambition as we move towards COP26 and beyond.”

Belfast City Council has made a commitment to become a carbon-neutral organisation as urgently as possible. Among the actions taken to date are:

  • Declared a climate emergency in October 2019

  • Started working with Climate NI to produce an adaptation plan which looks at how they manage climate risks that affect the organisation.

  • Produced an Environmental Sustainability Review which sets out a pathway to become a carbon-neutral organisation.

  • Set up an internal officer board to take forward the development of the Council Climate Plan.

  • Established an All Party Working Group on Climate Crisis.

  • Commissioned a Belfast Mini Stern Report: A Net Zero Carbon Roadmap for Belfast, which sets out the steps we have to take as a city.

  • Worked with the Belfast Community Planning Partnership to establish a Belfast Resilience and Sustainability Board in 2019 to drive climate work forward at city level.

  • Became co-chairs of the Belfast Climate Commission alongside Queen’s University. This was set up through membership of PCAN (Place Based Climate Action Network) an ESRC funded project, with a sharp focus on green finance, green business development and the just transition. The project is led by Grantham Institute at LSE with the cities and universities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast.

  • Joined a number of climate-related networks including Resilient Cities Network, Core Cities, UK100 and APSE Energy.

The United Kingdom will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 - 12 November 2021.

Nigel Topping is the UN High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 in the UK, appointed by the UK Prime Minister in January 2020. Nigel works alongside the Chilean High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP25, Gonzalo Muñoz.

The role of the high-level champions is to strengthen collaboration and drive action from businesses, investors, organisations, cities, and regions on climate change, and coordinate this work with governments and parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Nigel was most recently CEO of We Mean Business, a coalition of businesses working to accelerate the transition to a zero carbon economy. Prior to that he was Executive Director of the Carbon Disclosure Project, following an 18 year career in the private sector, having worked across the world in emerging markets and manufacturing.


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