Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Clare Saxon Ghauri
26 September 2012

This interview with MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, the Mayor of New York City, is part of our Clean Revolution case study series. Read the NYC case study.

  • What has driven you to take a global leadership role on climate change?

We were developing a long-term strategy for New York City; as we looked at the risks to the city’s future, climate change posed a very real threat. What’s more, all of the things we need to do to reduce our emissions – use energy more efficiently, switch to cleaner fuels, plant more trees – have lots of benefits even beyond climate change.

  • There are many people who doubt what US cities and states can accomplish without a climate change policy at the federal level. Do you think what you can accomplish in New York City is limited by federal government leadership?

Unlike in most of Europe, government in the United States is very decentralized. Here, we don’t have a national building code; we don’t have a national energy policy; we don’t have a national land-use plan. Many of the tools we need to reduce emissions – building codes, local transit, land-use policies – are actually municipal functions rather than federal functions. An effective price on carbon requires Federal policy, but in many other cases, the states and cities can act on their own, and they have. In America, mayors and governors have led the fight against climate change and will continue to do so.

  • What have been PlaNYC’s greatest achievements to date?

Our mandates for energy-efficiency on existing buildings are clearly the biggest achievement, but there are many others. We’ve planted half a million trees since 2007. We’ve begun the process of forcing out dirty heating oil from our buildings. We’ve converted a third of our taxi cabs to hybrids. We’ve dramatically increased cycling among New Yorkers. We’ve started systematically upgrading all our city buildings. And we’ve actually cut the city’s carbon footprint, by 12.9% in four years.

  • Why did the business community, including large groups within the real estate industry, support the Greener Greater Buildings Plan?

We have a lot of great leaders in green real estate in this city, and the law was written with their input. It achieves the maximum benefit – both in carbon reductions and in cost savings – with the simplest tools. For instance, by scoring buildings on their greenness, and making those scores public, we hope to promote competition among buildings – because consumers will pay a premium for green, efficient space. The plan also focuses on the cheapest energy-efficiency steps, such as keeping heating and cooling systems well-maintained. It requires periodic energy audits, but not for the most efficient buildings. It works with existing patterns of upgrades, such as allowing mandatory lighting upgrades to take place when leases turn over. People in the real estate community looked at it and realized that they were already doing many of these things – and by doing more, they could improve their long-term outlook.

  • What key insights or knowledge would you share with other political leaders pursuing a Clean Revolution?

It’s about following the facts – and not being afraid to innovate and experiment. If you ask good questions, and you’re willing to do what the answers tell you to do, you can change the world. Too many people in politics ignore facts they don’t like.

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