Bloomberg: Don’t Focus on the Leadership—Just Fix the Climate!

April 23, 2017, Guardian

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes that leaders across the globe ought to ignore the U.S. president and make the changes necessary to save the environment. (Or so he states in his new book, Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, coauthored by Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.)

“If a mayor improves the life of a community, people don’t care much what party he or she belongs to. As former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia once said, ‘There’s no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.’”

In a recent interview, Bloomberg declared he aims to prevent the collapse of the Paris climate deal, calling the failure to do so a “tragedy.”

Under the deal, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.

The Trump White House is debating whether to abandon the pact, as the president promised during his campaign. This week, days before thousands of protesters around the U.S. marched in support of scientific research, a meeting on the issue was abruptly cancelled.

Bloomberg says his book describes the policy objectives needed to accomplish this goal.

While he was mayor, Bloomberg made climate change action a priority. New York City has 520 miles of coastline; even the Bronx, the only borough not an island or a portion of one, has coastline, too.

The former mayor insists the release of the book is not motivated by politics. “‘I’m not running for office,” the 75-year-old said. Bloomberg did consider a presidential bid in 2016, after serving three terms as mayor of New York.

While the president moves forward on signing executive orders regarding energy, like the one rolling back the Obama administration’s climate change orders, Bloomberg said market forces—along with state-level leaders—will take the U.S. to its Paris climate deal goals.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” he said. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression—and help save the Paris deal.”

Bloomberg has provided $80 million in donations to the Sierra Club, as well as investing millions in liberal immigration policies and gun control. In the interview, the former mayor defended some of his more controversial policies during his NYC administration, including stricter smoking bans and high taxes on sugary drinks, saying that other places have taken those on.

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,” he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.”

Bloomberg targets the coal industry in the interview, acknowledging that holding such positions negatively affects politicians, as it did Hillary Clinton, but remains more pragmatic than political.

“The fact is, coal in Appalachia is running out,” he said, criticizing a Trump campaign pledge. “Washington can’t put generations of people back to work in a dying industry.”

Bloomberg plans to donate $3 million toward economic development in coal-mining communities. The unemployed miners’ troubles are depicted in a film, “From the Ashes,” produced through Bloomberg Philanthropies, included in the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

The White House has declined to comment on the interview.—Marian Conway