Minneapolis and St. Paul are national leaders when it comes to combating climate change.
That was the message sent when billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg came to the area to award the two cities $2.5 million each to continue efforts to combat climate change and champion environmental stewardship.
Bloomberg, the United Nations’ special envoy for climate action, came to the Twin Cities this past Monday (Oct. 29) to personally award Mayors Jacob Frey (Minneapolis) and Melvin Carter (St. Paul) the grants. Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Minneapolis and St. Paul as winning cities in the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. The Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge is a $70 million program that will accelerate 20 cities’ efforts to tackle climate change and promote a sustainable future for residents. The first nine cities were announced during the press conference.
Bloomberg said fighting climate change has to start at the local level.
“And mayors are leading the way on a lot of issues, especially climate change,” said Bloomberg, speaking outside, next to the Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis – site to the former flour processing plant, Washburn A Mill. “Mayors understand curtailing carbon emissions is good for the environment, but ultimately good for their cities because fighting climate change and growing the economy go hand-in-hand.”
The two mayors agreed, direction on this issue needs to come from the city level.
“In a time of a severe lack of leadership from the highest levels of our government, and divisive rhetoric meant to divide us, cities across our nation find themselves in a critical moment,” said Carter. “With our growing national division, we must be champions of local unity. St. Paul plans to use this support to further prepare for the impact of climate change through measurable carbon reductions and Bloomberg Philanthropies will work the city to achieve the following actions by 2020.”
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and a possible contender for president in 2020, also called out the Trump administration for what he termed as a dereliction of duties in the arena of climate change. He pointed to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change. Bloomberg said prior to pulling out, the U.S. had financial obligations – obligations that Bloomberg and others in the private sector have agreed to pay.
“The Paris climate agreement is a promise we made to our children, and we’re going to keep it,” said Rhea Suh in a statement, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The American Cities Climate Challenge gives cities the tools they need to lead the way. With cities generating the majority of the fossil fuel pollution driving climate change, and bearing the brunt of its impacts, fighting climate change begins in city hall. These mayors are committed to delivering a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow for future generations.”
“Cities are helping to keep America moving forward on climate change despite the lack of leadership from Washington, and this challenge was designed to help innovative mayors reach their goals,” said Bloomberg. “We were looking for cities with ambitious and realistic plans to cut emissions in ways that improve people’s lives, and mayors committed to getting the job done. Each of these winning cities brings those ingredients to the table and we’re looking forward to working with them and seeing what they can accomplish.”
Of the 20 cities chosen nationwide, Frey said it is no accident that both Minneapolis and St. Paul were chosen.
“Minneapolis does not live in a silo; we are in this together,” said Frey.
Frey said one of his initiatives is to have all city vehicles operating solely from electricity.
In addition to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and St. Louis received awards, joining previous awardees, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.