Mike Bloomberg leads effort to fulfill America’s Paris Agreement obligations, without Trump

Michael Walsh
Reporter

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is organizing an effort by governors, mayors, business leaders and other private citizens to make sure that Americans play an active role in the Paris Agreement — with or without the federal government.

Bloomberg, the founder and CEO of the media and financial company Bloomberg LP, announced late Thursday that he will lead a group in supporting the efforts of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help countries fulfill their commitments to the Paris climate accord.

“Americans are not walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement,” he said in a statement. “Just the opposite — we are forging ahead. Mayors, governors, and business leaders from both political parties are signing onto a statement of support that we will submit to the UN — and together, we will reach the emission reduction goals the U.S. made in Paris in 2015.”

If successful, this will be the first time U.S. citizens, local and state officials circumvented the federal government to negotiate an agreement with the United Nations.

As part of this effort, Bloomberg Philanthropies and other groups plan to donate up to $15 million to the U.N.’s Climate Secretariat to account for the funding it stands to lose as a result of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from Paris Agreement.

Bloomberg recently co-authored a book with former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope titled “Climate of Hope” about their belief that cities, businesses and citizens can win the climate change battle, with or without help from Washington.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (Photo: Christophe Ena/AP)

Pope says this kind of effort, enlisting nongovernment groups in international discussions alongside diplomats from nation-states, has not taken place in more than 350 years, since the treaty of Westphalia was signed in the 17th century.

“In 1648, the nations of Europe decided that from now on diplomacy would be entirely and exclusively the business of sovereign nation-states — nobody else got to play. This [the new climate change initiative] is a conscious attempt to reopen diplomacy to multiple stakeholders,” Pope told Yahoo News on Friday.

This nascent project has already attracted the support of 100 companies, 30 mayors and four governors. Many companies have already made individual statements condemning Trump but were waiting for him to finally make a decision before deciding what to do collaboratively.

“We’re still signing people up. We’re going to spend the weekend doing a lot more recruiting,” Pope said. “I think we will have at least 10 and maybe as many as 20 states and hundreds of cities.”

Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a commercial hoax cooked up by China, argued that the landmark climate agreement disadvantaged Americans. Withdrawing from the agreement would also cut the United States’ promised contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which is intended to help developing countries prepare for climate change and move to clean energy. The fund has raised about $10 billion from advanced economies, including $3 billion from the U.S.

Trump’s announcement elicited widespread condemnation by heads of state, scientists, concerned citizens and U.S. politicians from both parties.

Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope on “CBS This Morning.” (Photo: CBS News)

To critics, Trump was reneging on promises made only two years ago and forfeiting the United States’ position as a leader in shaping the clean energy economy of the future. Leaving the Paris Agreement, they contend, will make other countries — even close allies — skeptical of the United States’ ability to keep its word.

Trump’s actions still matter because the federal government has leverage that no one else has, such as regulating oil and gas drilling on public lands. But this new, unnamed, group wants the international community to know that there’s more to the United States than Trump and that other organizations will live up to America’s obligations.

“America will be able to be a compliant, good-faith partner of the U.N. even if Trump doesn’t choose to play,” Pope said. “We’re going to go around Trump. The country can go around Trump. We built this mechanism so we can be accountable and transparent.”

The United States was among 195 countries to sign the Paris Agreement. The pact’s 28th article permits any country to submit its withdrawal three years after it went into effect, which was Nov. 4, 2016. Trump would need to wait until Nov. 4, 2019 to formally request withdrawal and it wouldn’t go through until Nov. 4, 2020.

Trump’s other options are to withdraw from the UNFCCC altogether, which would have even graver ramifications for U.S. diplomacy, or just disregard the terms of the agreement and refuse to comply, which would violate international law.

A day before Trump’s announcement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lamented that Trump did not appear to understand that the U.S. would have to comply with the process laid out in the agreement for withdrawal.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bloomberg to be his special envoy for cities and climate change in 2014. Shortly after, in an August 2015 article in Foreign Affairs, Bloomberg argued that cities would be the locus for government-related problem solving in the 21st century and that climate change would be the first global problem where this becomes apparent.

Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, helped create a coalition called the Compact of Mayors, now expanded to be the Global Covenant of Mayors, which created a reporting platform that allows cities to collaborate and be globally transparent.

Immediately after Trump’s election, Bloomberg hinted that the Global Covenant of Mayors might try to take a seat at the U.N. negotiating table if it were vacated by Trump. Now that plan seems to be taking effect.

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