Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, now in his new role as a UN special envoy, said on Tuesday that it is cities and their mayors who can make the decisive difference in the fight against climate change.
Speaking at the opening of a three-day UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) event discussing how cities can be made more sustainable, billionaire philanthropist Bloomberg urged city leaders to act quickly to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from urban environments.
With 6.3 billion people – around 70% of the population – expected to live in urban areas by 2050, the event was convened to address the growing importance of cities in the fight against poverty, in safeguarding the environment and in improving resilience against natural disasters.
At the same time, the rapidly rising rate of urban development threatens international efforts to curb climate change.
Before an audience of officials and civic leaders, Bloomberg, who was appointed as UN envoy for cities and climate change in January, also called on governments to allow their cities more freedom to tackle these challenges.
“Those actions will save lives, they’ll strengthen and protect the national economies, they’ll make cities more healthy and economically vibrant and together they’ll make a difference in the global fight against climate change,” he said.
Bloomberg referred to his own achievements in New York to demonstrate what is possible. He left office in December 2013 having presided over a 19% increase in air quality thanks to ambitious policies. It is now claimed that NYC air is the cleanest it has been in five decades.
Isabelle Picco, vice-president of the General Assembly, also told the conference that, rather than necessarily driving environmental degradation, urbanisation could be a “transformative force” that makes the world a better place.
“We must harness the creative energies and resources of cities. For they will be the fertile ground where our global sustainable development efforts take root,” she said.
After adding his signature, Matthew Appelbaum, mayor of Boulder, Colorado in the US, said, “Its clear cities are on the frontlines – we are suffering the impacts of climate change.
“Because of that we have to be leaders and mitigate and adapt.”
Photo: Ralph Alswang via Flickr