Mayor Bloomberg: Cities can lead climate change action
By John Parnell
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has called for cities to lead the way in combating climate change while also having a swipe at the USA’s coal consumption.
Speaking at the Transforming Transportation event in Washington DC said the first step to making changes was to “build a constituency” that wants a change and cities were the best place to start.
“Every year governments gather to discuss climate change and they have done next to nothing,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
“It’s the cities that are making the real progress. Problems are unique to cities, to where the people are, it’s at the mayoral level where you can do things. I am very sceptical of governments’ ability to do this,” he added.
“They can move money around and create fictitious funding for projects that never happen. Legislators often write rule to implement a program that isn’t relevant when you come to implement it. But mayors make decisions, they are executives.”
Part of being able to make these decisions is having residents who are aware of the problems and recognise that the solutions are in their best interest.
“Generally it’s hard to convince people the air is polluted, the fish are full of mercury and climate change will converted to a dustbowl, all those problems are down the road,” he said.
“To convince people about sustainability today you have to persuade them there is a benefit for them. Something we did to tackle air pollution, was to plot where young asthma sufferers lived in New York. The result was more or less a map of the highways.”
A key part of tackling both climate change and air pollution he said, would be to reduce the amount of electricity generated by coal.
“This year in the US, 13000 people will die from coal related diseases. Nuclear never killed anyone [sic], fracking has never killed anyone and wind has only killed a few birds,” he added.
New figures released by the Energy information Administration (EIA) reveal that the use of coal by power plants in the USA is increasing again after being displaced by cheap domestic shale gas in recent years.
Bloomberg also praised the shift in China’s take on the environment attributing it to the public’s demand for greater environmental protections.
“China had a policy of economic development at any cost and the environment wasn’t a consideration,” said Bloomberg adding that as the country developed and a middle class emerged and things had to change.
“They developed and then wanted the same things as the rest of us, water that isn’t yellow and air you can’t see.
“The public in China are now demanding environmental protections and if the people demand cleaner air they [the government] are going to do it.”
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim praised the scale of the changes in China pointing out that its 15% renewable energy target will see it generate more clean energy than the entire UK demand. He too sees a growing role for cities and the C40 group of major urban centres pressing for climate action.
“We know cities are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, that’s where the battle will be fought so the C40 initiative is so important,” said Kim.
“Four degrees of warming could be here as early as 2060. When my three year-old is my age, the oceans will be 150% more acidic, the corals will be melted away, there will be fights for food and water around the world every day. We have to start dealing with that challenge in the mega cities.”