From Bali: Mayor Michael Bloomberg Puts New York, U.S. on Front Line of Worldwide Response to Climate Change Threat

Mayor Bloomberg



Last month's U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia gathered delegates from around the world in order to craft a worldwide agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. While the United States remains the only developed country not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, leadership on the issue of climate change has fallen to its states and cities. VerdeXchange News is pleased to present the following speech by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has put forward one of the world's most ambitious agendas for green urban living, in which he appeals the world's leaders to engage with the leadership of local governments.


Mayor Bloomberg: It is my privilege to speak not just for the 8.25 million people living in New York City but also for the nearly 3.3 billion men, women, and children—fully half of the population of the earth—who live in cities. Today, two powerful and historic forces converge: the urbanization of the world’s people and the alteration of the world’s climate. Both trends are accelerating. Fifty years ago, fewer than 100 of the world’s cities had populations of 1 million or more people. Within ten years, nearly 500 cities will.

The evidence of accelerating climate change is also indisputable, and the world’s cities, which account for 80 percent of humanity’s production of greenhouse gases, recognize that inaction is not an option. Mayors are at the level of government closest to the people, and we don’t have the luxury of talking about change but not delivering as some of us do.

It is, after all, our children who we are charged with protecting, who must breathe the pollution from the power plants that also contribute to climate change. And the economies we must grow for our citizens that are strangled by the ever-mounting automobile congestion that both fouls and warms our atmosphere. The mayors of the world’s cities are, by necessity, the great pragmatists on the world’s stage. Results, not ideology, are what matter to us.

Little wonder, then, that cities and localities around the globe, acting individually and in concert, have moved boldly and imaginatively to shrink our carbon footprints and reduce pollution. More than 700 cities, towns, and counties worldwide maintain an active network promoting international environmental action through ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, at whose request I am speaking today.

The world’s 40 largest cities have come together in the C40 organization, whose meeting my city hosted earlier this year, with great assistance from former President Clinton and the Climate Initiative of the Clinton Foundation. Although our national government has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, some 700 U.S. cities representing 80 million Americans have voluntarily agreed to meet Kyoto targets.

That includes my own city, New York. We’re committed to reducing our global warming emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. We’ll do that by working with our partners in state government to develop a pilot congestion pricing plan. We’ll create incentives to replace old polluting power plants with new ones using cleaner burning fuels. We’ll plant 1 million trees across our city in the next ten years. And just this week, we took steps to ensure that, by the year 2012, our city’s 13,000 taxicabs will be hybrid or hybrid equivalent. That alone will cut New York City’s carbon emissions by nearly half a percentage point, and incidentally, save each cab driver almost $5,000 a year in fuel costs.

Like me, most of you are city dwellers, and like me, most of you are parents. When you return to your homes, your children will ask you, as my children will ask me, what did you accomplish in Bali? Some day, our grandchildren may ask us as well. Let’s give them an answer we can be proud of, not an excuse that will be embarrassing to explain. Let’s focus on what the nations that we represent and the cities that I speak for can do rather than what they can’t, what lies ahead rather than what lies in the past, and who can take us forward rather than who got us where we are today.

In that spirit, I ask you to take two steps in finalizing the Bali roadmap. First, set out honestly and fully the duties that we all share. If we are to stabilize the world’s climate, science says we must cut carbon emissions by some 60-80 percent worldwide by mid-century. Local governments yesterday launched the World’s Mayors on Local Government Climate Protection Agreement, committing ourselves to these targets by the year 2050.

But the long-term carbon targets can’t just become excuses for inaction. We have to set short- and medium-term targets, as well, propose realistic plans to achieve them, and hold ourselves accountable in concrete, measurable ways to do just that. That, incidentally, is what cities and mayors do every day.

As an American, I’m trying to get my country to set the pace of change. A great nation embraces the duty to lead by example, and any country standing in the community of nations rises as it meets its obligation to the world that our children will inherit. I believe in my heart that the people and the federal, state, and city governments of the United States will, after much democratic discussion, do their part and fulfill their responsibilities to the world as they have so many times since our country’s founding 230 years ago.

Second, I ask you to make the cities and local governments of the world an integral part of this process. My hope is that when this conference reconvenes in 2008, local officials from every land will be able to speak for themselves, not as outsiders, not just as members of national delegations, but as full participants in this conference. That will set the stage for their playing a productive role in negotiating the successor to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in 2009. The authority and the resources needed to address the greatest challenge that humanity has ever created for itself must be shared by the officials most directly confronting these challenges. We have much to bring to the table.

From the dawn of civilization, cities have always been the hub of human industry and the matrix of human invention. In medieval times, it was said that city air was freer because cities liberated people from the bonds of feudalism and unlocked human creativity and fired human imaginations. Now, cities can and should help make the air freer and healthier for everyone who inhabits our globe. I ask you to empower us to meet that challenge. Thank you.