CCC appoints Nigel Topping as new business champion

Topping was chosen, the Government’s climate advisors stated, for his wealth of experience in both the private sector and in international climate diplomacy. He will take up the post this month for a five-year term.

In the 2010s, Topping served on the executive of the CDP for more than seven years, promoting the need for businesses to report on their climate, water and nature impacts. He is also the former chief executive of the We Mean Business Coalition, which exists to catalyse business and policy action on climate an social equality.

In 2020, Topping was selected to serve as the UN’s High-Level Champion for COP26, representing the UK as the host nation. More than 40,000 people attended the two-week climate summit in Glasgow, which is remembered for an unprecedented level of engagement from businesses, cities and other non-state actors.

Topping’s time in this role came to an end late last year. He remains involved with the High-Level Climate Champions programme as an ambassador.

Commenting on Topping’s appointment, CCC chair Lord Deben said he is “sure he will drive us to be even more ambitious in our net-zero advice [to Government]”. The CCC will publish its next annual net-zero progress report to the UK Parliament in June.

Topping said: “I’ve long been an admirer of the Committee’s work. The CCC is one of the UK’s key strengths in the global race to net-zero.

“I’m looking forward to championing the role of business in the net-zero transition, and the need for policies that support and encourage businesses to lead the charge. Change will happen quickly if we can get the conditions right.”

History of the role

The CCC has not had a business champion since the summer of 2021. The role was previously held by Rebecca Heaton, who, during her tenure, worked within the sustainability team at Drax.

Heaton resigned from the business champion role at the Committee, plus her CCC ‘champion for Wales’ role in 2021, amid controversy over her position.

Drax’s power station in Selby is in the process of converting from coal to biomass, and is adding carbon capture technologies to its biomass infrastructure. It claims that this will enable it to become carbon-neutral and then carbon-negative.

But this claim has been widely disputed by activist groups, given that carbon capture technology is still in its relative infancy, and given the potential forest impact of the biomass supply chain.

There were concerns that Heaton, in her position, would sway the CCC in getting the Government to agree on levels of support for biomass beyond those recommended by climate scientists and energy researchers. Both the CCC and Drax maintained that she did not advise on bioenergy, so there was no conflict of interests.

Heaton left Drax in 2021 and is now the director of environmental sustainability at Lloyds Banking Group.

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