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Mike Bloomberg Delivers Remarks on America’s Pledge at COP23

The following is the text of Mike Bloomberg’s speech as prepared on Saturday, November 11th, 2017.

Watch Mike Bloomberg and Governor Brown’s remarks here

“Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your leadership here at COP 23 – and for your work supporting action against climate change in every sector of society.

Good morning everyone – or as we say in Fijian: Bula! I would continue speaking in Fijian, but I’m not sure everyone here is as fluent as I am. I want to thank all of the people who spoke on this morning’s panel, and I want to thank all of you for joining us here in the U.S. Climate Action Center. This space is the first of its kind in the history of international efforts to fight climate change – and it was built to help change the course of the battle in our favor.

For the first twenty-two years of climate talks, America’s presence was funded and organized by the federal government – as it has been for every other country up to and including this conference. This year, the Administration declined to fund U.S. participation here in Bonn – which would have made us the only major economy without a pavilion to highlight our efforts. Bloomberg Philanthropies was happy to replace that funding and create this pavilion, as a way to ensure our voices are heard – and bring more voices into the fold.

It’s important for the world to know: The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but the American people are committed to its goals – and there is nothing Washington can do to stop us.

When President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement – which he can’t do until 2020 – some people worried that it meant the end of America’s climate leadership. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reason is simple: Over the last decade, the U.S. has reduced its emissions more than any other large country – and the federal government was on the sidelines for most of that progress.

The U.S. Congress did not pass any comprehensive legislation requiring cuts to carbon emissions. And the major climate initiative of the former administration, the Clean Power Plan, was held up in court and never went into effect. Despite that, the U.S. is already halfway to the goal we set in Paris of reducing carbon emissions twenty-six to twenty-eight percent by 2025. That progress has not been driven by top-down federal mandates, but by bottom-up action by cities, states, businesses, universities, and citizens – what the UN calls “non-state actors.” And all of these groups are accelerating their efforts.

After the White House announced its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a coalition of U.S. cities, states, businesses, and investors stepped forward to reaffirm their commitment to reaching our Paris goal. Together, this coalition represents more than half of the U.S. economy. If the group were a country, it would have the world’s third-largest economy.

In other words: The group of U.S. cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the U.S. and China. We should have a seat at the table – and the ability to work with peers in other nations. And that’s the aim of this pavilion.

Now, the Trump Administration did send a delegation here to Bonn, and this might be the first climate conference where coal is promoted as an example of sustainability – but it will also likely be the last. The world is moving on, and so is the U.S.

More than half of all U.S. coal plants have closed or are being phased out, and that trend has only accelerated over the past year. Thanks to the falling price of wind and solar, coal no longer makes any economic sense. It also kills people – including 20,000 people each year here in the EU. A number of countries have made plans to go one hundred percent coal free, and Europe is helping to lead the way. Coal’s days are numbered. It’s not coming back, and even if Washington drags its feet, the American people will keep moving forward.

The fact is: The federal government doesn’t determine whether and how the U.S. takes action on climate change. The bulk of the decisions affecting carbon emissions in the U.S. – and in many other countries – are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society. The role of the federal government is ideally to coordinate and support those efforts, but if Washington won’t lead, mayors, governors, CEOs, and civil society will.

One of the states leading the charge in the U.S. is California, under Governor Jerry Brown. Since last summer, Bloomberg Philanthropies has worked with Governor Brown and his team to aggregate and quantify the potential carbon reductions of all non-federal actors in the U.S., to identify all of the actions they are taking or have committed to, and to identify opportunities for each group to speed up progress.

We call this effort America’s Pledge – and this morning, we are releasing our first report. We hope our pledge will be accepted alongside the nationally determined contributions that every other party makes. Through America’s Pledge, we will continue measuring and reporting our progress reducing emissions, just as every other nation has committed to doing, so that the world can hold us accountable for reaching our commitment.

The Paris Agreement succeeded where other efforts failed in part because the efforts of non-state actors were recognized and taken into account for the first time. It was a big step in the right direction, but if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – and save more needless deaths from coal pollution – we need to aim higher, and act faster.

Cities, states, regions, and businesses can help to lead the way. Around the world, we need to empower local and regional governments to take action – and to work with business leaders to leverage their resources and expertise. America’s Pledge seeks to do just that – and we hope the UN will continue working on ways to incorporate non-state actors into the international process, in every country in the world.

The new Secretary-General has been very supporting of this approach, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. So has our host, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who has proposed formally opening the negotiation process to non-state actors.

As much as we would like to see more leadership from Washington, the decision to withdraw from the agreement has had the effect of galvanizing public support for bigger and bolder actions by all levels of society – and that is on full display here this week. Governor Brown really has led by example with his work in California – and I want to thank him for his partnership on this effort. Governor, would you say a few words?

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