PARIS: Billionaire climate advocate Michael Bloomberg met French President Emmanuel Macron as the political and grassroots response to Donald Trump’s ditching of the Paris Agreement built up steam.
Bloomberg made an unannounced visit to Paris Friday after launching a coalition of US cities and corporations that intends to uphold the Paris accord while Macron led Europe’s charge to defend the pact.
“Today I want the world to know the US will meet our Paris commitment, and through a partnership among cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris agreement process,” Bloomberg said at a joint press conference at the Elysee presidential palace.
“The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it. We will meet our targets.”
Macron described the Paris accord as “irreversible” and hailed Bloomberg as “a key player in the climate battle.”
“He can count on us,” he added.
On Thursday, Bloomberg said mayors, governors, and business leaders from both political parties were “signing onto a statement of support that we will submit to the UN – and together, we will reach the emission reduction goals the US made in Paris in 2015.”
The New York Times said that Bloomberg’s unnamed group so far includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses.
The Democratic-led states of California, New York and Washington announced separately that they were forming a United States Climate Alliance committed to upholding Paris emissions commitments and urged others to climb on board.
At least two Republican governors announced Friday they were partnering with Democratic-run states to combat climate change after Trump’s announcement sparked swift condemnation from academics, industry leaders and environmental experts.
Charlie Baker and Phil Scott, the Republican governors of Massachusetts and Vermont respectively, announced that their liberal northeastern states were joining the Climate Alliance and committed to the goals of the Paris agreement, as did their Democratic counterparts in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Around 150 mayors, who say they represent 47 million Americans, have also committed to uphold the Paris commitments, intensify efforts to meet climate goals and increase investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
New York’s Bill de Blasio, mayor of America’s most populous city, told WNYC radio that he wanted to “surpass” his commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.
A majority of Americans in every state, or 69 percent of US voters, believe the United States should participate in the agreement, according to a recent opinion poll carried out by Yale University’s program on climate change communication.
Withdrawal in 2020
While United Nations (UN) officials stress that it could take several years before there is a proper understanding of the implications of a US withdrawal, they also say the deal was structured to require action at multiple levels of government, not just federal.
Robert Orr, one of the architects of the Paris accord and a former special advisor to the UN secretary general on climate change, told Agence France-Presse that the United States had already been on track to achieve about half its Paris reductions commitment.
“The president may have unwittingly added dynamism to the same actors that have always been the ones that are delivering the reductions to actually do more on their own,” he said.
“If this coalition broadens and deepens at the pace that it appears to be, I think the Trump effect could be more than mitigated,” added Orr, now dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.
California, New York and Washington, three of the states in the Climate Alliance, represent more than one-fifth of US gross domestic product and account for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, their governors said.
The governor of Hawaii has also pledged to continue concrete steps to implement the Paris accord, while governors of Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Virginia committed to clean air and clean energy.
The earliest possible date for America’s official withdrawal from the Paris agreement is Nov. 4, 2020 – the day after the next US presidential election – although Trump’s current term in office is not due to end until Jan. 20, 2021.
$15M for climate body
Bloomberg also pledged to muster $15 million for the UN climate body, substituting for US funding likely to be axed by Trump.
The money will support the operations of the Bonn-based secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Bloomberg, 75, who was mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013, is estimated by Forbes magazine to be the eighth richest person in the world.
A political independent who has been a strident critic of Trump’s energy and climate policies, he is also a UN special envoy for cities and climate change.
Bloomberg is also president of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of 90 cities around the world that is pushing programs to reduce carbon emissions and shore up urban defenses against climate change.
The head of the group is Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was also present at Friday’s talks.
Macron, a 39-year-old centrist former banker, took office last month after a meteoric rise.
On Thursday, he was the most vocal of European leaders in criticizing Trump’s decision and in vowing to defend the Paris agreement.
He notably released a video, in French and English, in which he invited American scientists, businesspeople and citizens who are frustrated by the White House’s stance to “come and work here with us” on finding a solution to the climate crisis.
In a separate development on Friday, Macron spoke with Pope Francis, “thanking him for… his mobilization for the Paris Agreement,” the presidential office said.
“The two leaders agreed to exchange views on the initiatives on climate change that will be taken in the coming weeks,” it said, without elaborating.
Macron also invited the Pope to visit France “at a date that he finds convenient.”
The Pontiff met Trump in the Vatican on May 24, and pointedly gave him the gift of an encyclical “Laudato Si,” issued in 2015.
In it, Francis proclaimed the scientific consensus on global warming and urged the industrialized world to slash carbon emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.