Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Speaks at RE-Invest 2015 on India's Leading Role in Moving the World Toward a More Sustainable Future

By Mike Bloomberg - FEB. 16, 2015

The following are U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as prepared for delivery at RE-Invest 2015 in New Delhi on Monday, February 16:

“Thank you, Doctor Agnihotri, for such a warm introduction. And good morning to all the distinguished guests joining us today. It’s a privilege to be here with all of you in the heart of this incredible city, and to address a topic that really is so critical to our future.

“Delhi is a spectacular place, and, in some ways, it reminds me of my own hometown of New York City. Both are fast-paced international capitals of culture and business. Both are incredibly diverse and dynamic. And, of course, both are great places to be if you have a craving for Indian food at three o’clock in the morning.

“When I was serving in City Hall, we worked closely with Indian-American leaders from every sector of the economy. New York City has a large Indian population, but, in my view, it is not large enough. And if it were up to me, our federal government would fix our immigration system so that Indians who study in America could stay in America and give back to our economy. At the same time, Indians who want to do business in America should easily be able to get visas.

“I have been urging our leaders in Washington, D.C. to take those steps, and I will continue doing that. The closer the economic partnership between our two countries, the stronger we both will be. President Obama recognizes that.

“In the U.S., there was a lot of interest in President Obama’s visit to India last month, including from business leaders. We have been reading press reports about how India has become the world’s fastest-growing economy.

“I can tell you that, as the owner of a company that connects businesses and banks to capital markets, we are very bullish on India’s future. Bloomberg has 162 employees in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore, and we expect to continue growing here in the years ahead. But that’s just one example of our belief in the promise of India’s future. My foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is also active here, and part of our work is devoted to an idea that lies at the heart of Prime Minister Modi’s economic agenda: Sustainable growth, driven by innovation, and measured with data.

“Last September, I had the honor of meeting with Prime Minister Modi during his visit to New York. We discussed some of the issues we’re both focused on, including cities and climate change. Countries with the longest history of development have the biggest burdens to bear in confronting climate change. But all of us, in every country, have an equal stake in this fight, because our citizens’ health and economic well-being is at risk, regardless of our history, and so all of us must do our part.

“The good news is, as Prime Minister Modi is showing, confronting climate change goes hand-in-hand with smart economic growth. And from my experience, he is absolutely correct to make cities a central focus of his work.

“Around the world, cities are growing, and, here in India, the number of people living in cities is projected to grow from 340 million in 2008 to almost 600 million by 2030. People are moving to cities because they provide jobs and opportunities, diversity and tolerance.

“Cities are also where the majority of carbon emissions come from. Most of those emissions come from sources that cities have some control over – like buildings, transportation, and waste. Steps to make those systems more efficient also make cities better places to live.

“For instance, low-carbon transportation, like Delhi’s metro, also helps reduce congestion and air pollution, while connecting people to jobs. The requirement here in Delhi that large buildings install rooftop solar water heaters will help clean the air, and so will the rickshaws powered by compressed natural gas. I took one to get here – and they remind me of New York taxis: yellow and green, and fast. Sometimes too fast.

“Investments like these really can make a big difference. In New York City, we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by 19 percent in just six years while also making our air cleaner than it has been in more than 50 years, increasing life expectancy by three years, and leading the U.S. in creating new jobs. And India can do the same for its citizens.

“In New York City, our economy didn’t grow despite our investments in sustainability. It grew because of them. I can’t emphasize that enough. The most effective economic policies are ones that improve people’s health and quality of life. The fact is: People want to live in cities with clean air and water, good public transportation, and streets that are safe for walking and biking. And where people want to live, businesses want to invest.

“The more India invests in sustainable cities, the stronger its economy will grow, and there is a great deal that cities can learn from one another.

“In New York, our sustainability work borrowed great ideas from cities around the world. To give you just a couple of examples: In designing our bus rapid transit routes, we learned from cities like Bogotá, Colombia. For our work building bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, we learned from cities like Copenhagen.

“One of the best forums for sharing urban strategies is the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which I’ve long been involved with. Delhi and Mumbai are both members, and we’re optimistic that more Indian cities will be joining us.

“The global community of cities is growing stronger, and that is something I see in my role with the United Nations. Part of my work with the U.N. involves encouraging national governments to look to cities as their partners on climate change. That is an idea that Prime Minister Modi has enthusiastically embraced. He understands the power of cities, and the importance of powering them with clean energy.

“As you know, the Indian government has set a target of installing about 100 gigawatts of solar power across the country – enough to power tens of millions of homes.

“There may be no large country in the world that is better positioned to capitalize on solar power than India is. Just think about it: India gets about 70% more solar radiation than Europe. And one of the benefits of solar energy is that it is decentralized. It doesn’t rely on expensive transmission lines.

“Imagine the signal it would send to the world if India were able to achieve its goal of bringing electricity to every household that lacks it, largely using clean solar power – at a fraction of the cost of the conventional grid. It would be a success story told – and copied – around the world.

“No other country faces an energy challenge, or has seized an energy opportunity on nearly the same scale and scope. And as ambitious as the Prime Minister’s plan is, it’s achievable, because of one very important reason: The market is moving in the right direction.

“While the potential costs of climate change are steadily rising, and while communities in India and around the world are already feeling its effects, the cost of clean power keeps falling.

“This year, for the first time, solar contracts signed here in India are cheaper than contracts for power that is produced from imported coal. The cost of Indian-generated wind power is now often comparable to the cost of power from imported coal. By 2020, that same coal may cost considerably more than wind and solar power, and it will come with even greater risks.

“When droughts and cyclones have hit India in recent years, they have shut down coal plants. And I can tell you that in New York City, when we were hit by a historic storm while I was mayor, it knocked out our electricity system for days. The more solar power you have, the more resilient your energy system is. We saw that after a recent typhoon here in India, when the solar panels survived in Visakhapatnam.

“Reducing pollution from coal brings major benefits for public health, too. Pollution from burning coal contributes to more than 7,500 deaths in the U.S. every year, and in India that number is 100,000. It is an avoidable tragedy, and it places an enormous burden on hospitals and health care providers.

“Clean energy investments, of course, also produce jobs. And they are the kind of knowledge-intensive jobs that Indians are well-prepared to fill, given the strong education system here. In the U.S., there are now more people working in the solar industry than in the coal industry.

“Here in India, business leaders increasingly recognize the opportunity before them. Mahindra recently committed to tripling its investment in domestic solar power. And the American company Sun Edison, in partnership with Adani Enterprises, just announced plans to build a $4 billion solar equipment manufacturing plant in India.

“All of that investment can help India keep growing without polluting the air people breathe or the water they drink. It can raise living standards and spread opportunity. It can help India set high goals for reducing carbon, and it can serve as a model of sustainable development for other countries.

“At the end of this year, the world will come together in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change conference to negotiate a treaty on climate change. No country will commit to goals they don’t think they can reach, or that come at too great a cost to economic growth. But countries are moving forward because they realize the benefits of taking action – for their economies and the health of their citizens.

“India’s leadership is helping to show other countries how much is possible – by showing that clean-energy, climate-resilient growth is the path to a brighter future. We’re all in this together, and we have a great deal to learn from one another.

“Thank you, again, for giving me this opportunity to speak with you, and have a great rest of the day. All the best.”

DATAPOINT
600M
people are projected to live in cities by 2030 in India.
MIKE BLOOMBERG

U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and President of the Board of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

IN MIKE'S WORDS

There are so many facets to climate change that make it difficult to address, but you don’t give up just because it’s difficult. You work harder.

WHY ENVIRONMENT
WHY ENVIRONMENT