Nigel Topping: “There are some bulls**t. But it is nonsense to label everything as “greenwashing”.”

High-level UN climate advocates explained the “ambition cycle” that drives companies to take climate action.
With his #ShowYourStripes tie and mask, and blue and orange runners, Nigel Topping stands out from the crowd. The day before I interviewed him at Cop26, Topping followed Al Gore, the former US presidential candidate, onto the stage wearing bright red socks. On a gray and rainy Saturday morning (November 6), when most of us should be in bed, the colors and Toppin’s passion for climate action are contagious.
Topping enjoys the prestigious title of UN High-level Climate Champion, which he shared with Chilean sustainable business entrepreneur Gonzalo Muñoz. This role was established under the Paris Agreement to help encourage companies, cities and investors to reduce emissions and achieve net zero emissions. Toppin was appointed as the host of Cop26 by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in January 2020.
When I asked what his job really meant, Toppin smiled and referred me to the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh (Amitav Ghosh) in his book “The Great Derangement.” Obviously teased the creation of this character and asked what these “mythical creatures” did to be named “champions”. What Topping did was to demonstrate his credible credentials as a sustainable business expert—he served as the CEO of the We Mean Business Alliance, the executive director of the Carbon Disclosure Project, and worked in the private sector for nearly 20 years.
On the day before our speech, Greta Tumberg told the “Friday for the Future” audience in Glasgow that Cop26 is a “Corporate Green Washing Festival”, not a climate conference. “There are some bulls,” Toppin said. “There is a phenomenon of green bleaching, but it is not correct to label everything green. You have to be more forensic, or you will throw the baby out with the bath water. You have to be very sophisticated… instead of labeling everything Nonsense labels, otherwise it will be difficult to make progress.”
Topping said that, just like the government, some companies are indeed ambitious, while others are lagging behind in climate action. But, in general, “we have seen real leadership in the private sector, which was unimaginable a few years ago.” Topping described a “circulation of ambitions staged in real time” in which the government and companies are pushing each other to do Make greater and better climate action commitments.
He said the biggest change is that companies no longer see climate action as a cost or opportunity, but only as “inevitable.” Toppin said that youth activists, regulators, mayors, technicians, consumers and suppliers all point in the same direction. “As a CEO, if you don’t read it, you will be very angry. You don’t have to be a fortune-teller to see this redirection. It is yelling at you.”
Although he believes that “institutional change” is taking place, it is a shift to different forms of capitalism, not a complete overthrow of the status quo. “I haven’t seen any wise suggestions to overthrow the capitalist system and alternatives,” Toppin said. “We know that capitalism is very good at certain aspects, and it is up to society to decide what the goal is.
“We are leaving a period of unfettered greed and a slightly short-sighted belief in the power of capitalism and impervious economics, and realizing that society can decide that we want a more distributive and operating in full power. Economy,” he suggested. Focusing on “some inequalities caused by human transformation and climate change” will be the key to this week’s Cop26 discussion.
Despite his optimism, Toppin knew that the pace of change needed to be accelerated. Toppin said that the world’s slow response to climate change is not only a “failure of imagination” as Ghosh called it, but also a “failure of self-confidence.”
“When we concentrate on something, we as a species have an incredible ability to innovate,” he added, citing John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Landing Plan” ambitions. “People think he is crazy,” Toppin said. There is almost no technology for landing on the moon, and mathematicians do not know how to calculate the trajectory of space flight. “JKF said,’I don’t care, solve it.’” We should take a similar stance on climate action, not a “defensive stance” in the face of negative lobbying. “We need more imagination and courage to set the goals we want to achieve.”
Market forces will also promote faster progress and reduce the cost of new technologies. Just like solar and wind energy, solar and wind energy are now cheaper than fossil fuels in most parts of the world. November 10th is Cop26′s shipping day. Toppin hopes this is the day when the world agrees to end the relationship with the internal combustion engine. He said that the future is the way that some people recall the use of gasoline and diesel-powered cars, just like the way “grandfathers in flat caps” met on weekends to discuss the advantages of coal-fired road rollers in the past.
This will not be without difficulties. Topping said that any major change means “risks and opportunities”, and we need to “be careful of unintended consequences.” The rapid shift to electric vehicles does not mean dumping internal combustion engines in developing countries. At the same time, “we should be careful not to fall into the old trap of assuming that technological transformation must take place in developing countries 20 years later,” he pointed out. He cited the example of Kenya Mobile Bank, which is “more complicated than the UK or Manhattan.”
Behavior changes basically did not appear in the Cop26 negotiations, even though there were many appeals on the streets-there were large-scale climate protests in Glasgow on Friday and Saturday (November 5-6). Topping believes that the company can also help in this regard. Topping said that Wal-Mart and IKEA sell energy-saving LEDs instead of incandescent light bulbs and “help select editor consumers” to adapt to new buying habits, which become “normal” over time. He believes that the same changes have occurred in food.
“We are witnessing a diet shift,” Topping said. For example, McDonald’s introduced plant-based burgers, and Sainsbury put alternative meats on meat shelves. Such actions are “mainstreaming” different behaviors. “This means that you are not a weird substitute meat-eater, you need to go to the corner to find your special collection.”

Post time: Nov-09-2021