Leading By Example on Climate Action

The fact is, people want live in cities with clean air -- and where people want to live, businesses want to invest. One way to do that is by investing in low carbon transportation infrastructure -- from bus rapid transit to bike share systems -- that help reduce congestion and improve mobility.
11/23/2015 09:31 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2016

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the U.N.'s global conference on climate change that will take place there next week has become more important than ever. The conference presents a unique opportunity for world leaders to express their support for the people of Paris, and to re-affirm their shared commitment to addressing common threats.

As the U.N. conference gets underway, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and I will co-host the first ever Climate Summit for Local Leaders. We organized the summit to ensure that mayors -- who overwhelmingly favor bold action on climate change and are leading by example -- have their voices heard by those negotiating a global agreement. Cities are on the front lines of the battle against climate change, just as they are with terrorism. By attending the summit, mayors will be making a statement about their determination to win both battles.

Mayors and business leaders increasingly see climate change in pragmatic terms. After all, most of the world's cities and businesses lie on coastal lands that are threatened by sea-level rise. Protecting against storms that flood cities and factories and disrupt shipping and transportation is simply a matter of smart risk management for both cities and businesses.

Too often, however, the risks associated with climate change are unknown or opaque. That's why Hank Paulson, Tom Steyer, and I created an initiative called Risky Business, which aims to bring greater market transparency to the economic risks presented by climate change, so that business leaders can price them into their investment decisions.

Business leaders also recognize that the transition to a low-carbon economy presents opportunities for cost savings, through energy efficiency and new job creation. Today, there are twice as many people in the solar industry as there are in the coal industry -- and that spread will continue to widen, as communities continue to reject the coal industry's pollution.

Reducing carbon pollution also promotes economic growth by attracting people and capital. The fact is, people want live in cities with clean air -- and where people want to live, businesses want to invest. One way to do that is by investing in low-carbon transportation infrastructure -- from bus rapid transit to bike-share systems -- that help reduce congestion and improve mobility.

The good news is that we're making more progress than many people realize. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, a grassroots effort that Bloomberg Philanthropies supports, has helped close or phase out more than 200 coal plants around the U.S. Local communities have demanded that coal plants be replaced with cleaner -- and in many cases, cheaper -- sources of power. Both of those trends -- increasing public opposition to dirty air and decreasing costs for cleaner energy -- will continue to accelerate in the years ahead, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

Mayors, business leaders, and every day citizens are taking action on climate change, and we need world leaders to do the same. The more that people from different perspectives speak out, the better our chances are of achieving an ambitious global agreement in Paris. That's why I have joined with LinkedIn and The Huffington Post to ask their communities to expand this conversation by inviting other business leaders to join it -- and so I'll turn to a fellow entrepreneur and philanthropist, Arianna Huffington, to help carry it forward.

Michael R. Bloomberg is U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. He chairs the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. He is Founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP and served three terms as mayor of New York City. Follow Michael Bloomberg on LinkedIn for more views on business.

This post is part of the "Businesses for Climate" series, led by Michael Bloomberg and The Huffington Post, in conjunction with LinkedIn. The series is intended to call attention to the role of businesses in leading the way when it comes to taking action on climate change, in advance of the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris next week. To view the entire series, visit here.