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Belfast’s new Lord Mayor welcomes climate champion

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Date: 02 Jun 2021

Category: Climate and biodiversity

Lord Mayor of Belfast City Council Councillor Kate Nicholl pictured welcoming Nigel Topping, the UK’s High Level Climate Action Champion to Belfast City Hall today.

Belfast’s newly installed Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl had her first engagement today (Wed 2 June) welcoming Nigel Topping, the UK’s High Level Climate Action Champion, 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.

Nigel Topping was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last January in the run-up to COP26, which is currently under UK presidency. His role is to help drive climate change action from cities and regions (including local authorities) as well as businesses, organisations and investors.

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.

Mr Topping is the former Chief Executive of zero-carbon lobby group We Mean Business and prior to that he was Executive Director of the Carbon Disclosure Project. Alongside fellow climate champion, Gonzalo Muñoz from Chile, he is leading the Race To Zero, the international campaign for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery.

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.

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