Michael R. Bloomberg, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action and co-chair of America’s Pledge, announced the $70 million American Cities Climate Challenge, a major new effort to expedite progress in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while growing local economies during a time of inaction from the federal government.
Through a competitive process, Bloomberg Philanthropies will select the 20 mayors demonstrating the strongest leadership and commitment to move America forward on delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement — a 26% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels. Selected cities will participate in a two-year program designed to significantly deepen the impact of their efforts to tackle climate change. The $70 million investment includes funding from a philanthropic partner and additional charitable partners may join the effort in the future.
The announcement coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Trump Administration’s statement of its intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Since June 2017, U.S. cities — along with states, businesses, and other nonfederal actors — have united as drivers of ambitious climate action, continuing the work to cut emissions while protecting public health and fostering economic growth. The actions taken by these nonfederal actors will be aggregated quantified through America’s Pledge.
The new Bloomberg Philanthropies program will select the 20 cities that will lead America’s efforts to reduce climate emissions. The Challenge is open to the 100 most populous cities in America. Together these cities have the potential to deliver 20% of the remaining Paris Agreement target, over 200 million megatons of carbon pollution by 2025, the equivalent of closing 48 coal-fired power plants.
To be eligible to apply to the Challenge, mayors from these 100 cities must have signed the We Are Still In declaration by June 19, 2018. To be selected, cities must demonstrate a track record of achievement and a deep ambition to use the next two years to ramp up progress. The program will focus specifically on transportation and building sectors, which typically total 90% of citywide emissions and are areas over which mayors have significant authority.
“Mayors don’t look at climate change as an ideological issue. They look at it as an economic and public health issue,” said Bloomberg. “Regardless of the decisions of the Trump administration, mayors are determined to continue making progress. The Challenge will work with our country’s most ambitious mayors to help them move further, faster towards achieving their climate goals.”
Through the American Cities Climate Challenge, selected cities — the 20 “Leadership Cities”— will be accepted into a two-year acceleration program with powerful new resources and access to cutting-edge support to help them meet — or beat — their near-term carbon reduction goals. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide the cities with a robust technical assistance and support package valued at more than $2.5 million per city. Resources include: a philanthropy-funded Climate Advisor to facilitate the development and passage of high impact policies; data, design, and innovation resources to help city officials design and deliver bold programming; leadership development support; implementation coaching; rapid response grants to accelerate impact; and peer-to-peer learning and networking. World-class partners for the American Cities Climate Challenge will be led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Delivery Associates.
Mayors across the country recognize the real and urgent threat climate change poses for their communities. From retrofitting buildings in St. Louis, to installing solar arrays in Orlando, to raising $120 billion to build out 100 miles of new zero-emission rail-transit in Los Angeles, American cities are already leading the way on climate action, while also creating local jobs, protecting public health and improving the quality of life for citizens, according to an NRDC statement.
“Cities across America are on the front lines of climate change — their residents are feeling the heat and watching the floodwaters rise around them,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This challenge will empower America’s cities to pursue innovative policies and programs to cut their carbon pollution. NRDC is eager to work with these cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies and partner groups to help tackle the greatest environmental challenge of our generation.”
The American Cities Climate Challenge will also support America’s Pledge initiative, chaired by Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, helping coordinate between key real estate, finance, and private sector leaders, as well as Governors, to track and report ongoing progress. While cities can make significant progress on climate on their own, coordination and partnership among states, cities and the private sector is key to achieving local and national climate goals.
“Cities and local leaders are on the frontlines of the fight against climate change – the existential threat of our time,” said California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. “This initiative will help cities redouble their efforts to spur innovation and curb carbon pollution.”
The first round of applications will open June 19th and will close on July 13th. Winners will be announced in the fall. Visit bloomberg.org/climatechallenge for more details on timeline, eligibility, and partners.
The American Cities Climate Challenge is part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, a suite of more than $200 million in investments to strengthen city halls and advance critical policies. See more about the American Cities Initiative here.