The following is the text of Mike Bloomberg’s speech as prepared on Saturday, November 11th, 2017.
“Thank you, Laurence, for the introduction, and for the great work you’re leading through the European Climate Foundation, which Bloomberg Philanthropies is glad to support. The organization has a great track record helping speed the transition to clean energy here in Europe – and that couldn’t be more important.
Coal is a double threat to human life. It’s the single biggest contributor to the carbon emissions that are warming the planet, and it is also a leading cause of death and disease. Air pollution from burning coal kills more than 800,000 people every year in the world. That’s almost three times the population of Bonn dying – every year. We don’t have to accept that – and we aren’t.
Europe’s leaders are helping to lead the world away from coal. But coal pollution still kills around 20,000 people in the EU every year. The more we can do to speed the transition to cleaner energy, the more lives we can save – and the better positioned we’ll be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
In the U.S., we’ve seen how progress can be accelerated. For the last six years, we’ve been working with the Sierra Club on a campaign called Beyond Coal. Back in 2011, we set a goal of closing one-third of the nation’s coal fired power plants by 2020. We reached that goal five years early, and as of today, more than half of U.S. coal plants – 265 out of the original 523 – have closed or announced plans to. Since last November, the rate of coal plant closures has actually increased – which shows you how much influence Washington has on this issue.
Coal plant closures in the U.S. and here in Europe are happening for three major reasons:
Market forces are providing cleaner and cheaper forms of energy. Communities are demanding power sources that don’t poison the air and water. And cities, states, and companies want to save money and protect public health. These are the forces shifting the world away from coal – and our partnership with the Sierra Club, and now the European Climate Foundation, is a way to support them.
In the U.S., coal plant closures have helped us reduce carbon emissions more than any other large country over the last decade. And they will take us about sixty percent of the way to our Paris Agreement goal. They have also saved a lot of lives. Six years ago, more than 13,000 Americans were dying each year from coal plant pollution. Today, the number of deaths is down to around 7,500. That’s still far too many – but we are making real progress. And we are aiming to retire two thirds of all U.S. plants by 2020, which will save many more lives.
To help make that possible, last year, our foundation helped produce a documentary film about the impacts of coal, called From the Ashes, which is helping to raise awareness about the issue. We’re also supporting organizations working in coal regions to help people gain skills and find good jobs in industries that have a brighter future than coal, which is an urgent challenge.
A few weeks ago, our foundation made a new commitment to ensure the U.S. continues its progress away from coal, despite new efforts by Washington to prop up the industry. We also want to expand our ambitions, by expanding our efforts globally. This week, we committed $50 million to support international efforts to move beyond coal – and we’re starting in Europe because of the great opportunities here.
A growing number of European countries have plans to go one hundred percent coal-free. We want to help them reach those goals faster – and we want to help more countries follow their lead. A recent study showed that Europe could eliminate all of its coal power by the year 2030 – and that really would set an example for the rest of the world. Last year, Portugal ran for four days in a row using only renewable energy. The UK went an entire day without using any coal-generated power for the first time since the dawn of electricity in the 1880s. Last year, Belgium closed its last coal power plant. A number of countries have only one or two left – including France.
This spring, Germany reached a new national record by getting eight-five percent of its electricity from renewable sources for a brief period. Germany is Europe’s biggest producer and consumer of coal, so its leadership in moving to cleaner power really is critically important. Germany is considering phasing out coal completely. That would be an incredible step forward.
So there’s a lot of progress being made – but not in all countries. We want to help change that so all Europeans enjoy the benefits of cleaner air.
Coal’s days are numbered, and the faster we can count them down, the more lives we can save now, and the better off future generations will be. I want to thank the European Climate Foundation and all of our partners in this effort to help move Europe Beyond Coal. It really will make a very big difference. Now let me turn it over to Laurence.”