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U.N. chief taps Bloomberg for key climate role

Michael Bloomberg was reappointed to the role of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres' special envoy on climate ambition and solutions.

Michael Bloomberg at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit
Michael Bloomberg at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit (AN/Nikki Ritcher)

Billionaire media mogul and New York's former mayor Michael Bloomberg was reappointed to the role of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres' special envoy on climate ambition and solutions on Friday, in preparation for the United Nations' next major climate summit.

Bloomberg's return to the forefront of global climate efforts comes just weeks after the start of U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, which has made it a priority for the United States — the second-biggest emitter, after China, of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases — to serve as a global leader in confronting global warming.

Guterres described Bloomberg as a leader who is "undaunted by big challenges" and has a "deep commitment" to global climate issues. Bloomberg's initial main responsibility will be to prod the world to cut heat-trapping carbon emissions and take other actions at the 26th session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which is the platform for U.N. climate summits, known as COPs.

"His essential experience bridging the interests of business, finance, policy makers and philanthropy are uniquely suited to helping to accelerate impact as we rebuild better together and drive toward a global commitment for COP26 and beyond," Guterres said.

A business-turned-philanthropist and politician, Bloomberg owns Bloomberg L.P., the  financial, software, data, and media company. He served as New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013, and, in 2006, created Bloomberg Philanthropies, a New York-based organization with a global reach.

He had stepped down from his previous role as U.N. special envoy for climate action, which he held from March 2018 to November 2019, to seek the Democratic nomination for the White House, on which he spent US$1 billion of his estimated US$54 billion fortune.

After dropping out, Bloomberg spent another US$100 million to help Biden defeat former President Donald Trump, who considered climate change a hoax and campaigned against energy efficient products. The Trump administration also moved to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

'Be bold and get results'

In addition to reclaiming his role as U.N. climate envoy, Bloomberg has been appointed to serve as the United Nations' first global ambassador for the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns. Race to Zero aims to build a world economy that generates net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Race to Resilience seeks to help 4 billion people from vulnerable groups and communities to better withstand climate risks by 2030.

Those efforts will be essential in trying to fulfill both the Paris climate treaty — a commitment to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees, if possible — and the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The U.N.'s next annual climate summit, postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is planned for November 1 to 12, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland.

"Communities everywhere are feeling the worsening impacts of climate change. Fortunately, more cities, states, businesses and countries are taking climate action," Bloomberg said in a video message.

"My role as the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy on climate ambition and solutions is to help them be bold and get results," he said. "As the world builds back from COVID-19, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make investments that will strengthen the economy and improve public health and fight climate change for generations to come."