Minneapolis and St. Paul have signed on to Michael Bloomberg's charitable program to make American cities more climate-friendly, with each city getting a $2.5 million boost for local projects to combat a global threat.
The two cities are among 20 municipalities that Bloomberg Philanthropies — the former New York City mayor's charitable organization — has chosen to support in carrying out local efforts to fight climate change, through a $70 million program called the American Cities Climate Challenge.
Bloomberg, who is the United Nations' special envoy for climate action, visited the Twin Cities on Monday and spoke at an event in downtown Minneapolis with mayors Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter. It's up to local governments — and the mayors who lead them — to take on climate change, Bloomberg said.
"Mayors just can't avoid the risks that we face, because their constituents already are feeling the effects, and they do expect City Hall to take action," said Bloomberg, mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013.
Leaders in both Minneapolis and St. Paul have increasingly taken stands on national issues, citing disagreement with the policies of the federal government and President Donald Trump. Though both cities are already working to fight climate change — and have set goals to drastically reduce carbon emissions by 2050 — the two mayors said Monday that they plan to do more, with Bloomberg's help.
"People are calling right now for cities to step up and lead, and we most definitely are going to answer that call," Frey said.
Each mayor announced a set of initiatives that they plan to accomplish by 2020, including reducing carbon emissions from city buildings, increasing the use of solar power and improving residents' access to forms of transportation other than gas-powered cars.
"We all know that the impacts of climate change are hurting our communities, they're impacting our cities and they cannot go unanswered," Carter said.
Each city will receive $2.5 million in grant money and other resources from Bloomberg Philanthropies to carry out their goals over two years. Other participating cities include Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The announcement comes less than a month after the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report calling for immediate global action on climate change. If global warming continues at its current rate, the report said, millions of people will experience the catastrophic consequences, from severe flooding to food shortages.
Call for action on gun violence
Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul who has floated the possibility of a 2020 presidential run, was blunt in his criticism of federal policies on climate change — including Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord — as well as on the issue of gun violence.
Flanked by the two mayors against the backdrop of the Stone Arch Bridge, Bloomberg began his remarks by acknowledging Saturday's mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
"We have to do something to see if we can't bring this country together and stop more tragedies like this," Bloomberg said.
Later Monday, Bloomberg, Frey and Carter headed to St. Paul's W.A. Frost restaurant for a gathering of several dozen volunteer activists and victims who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, two national grass roots organizations, hosted the event.
The former mayor said the nation needs to keep guns out of the hands of minors and people with psychological problems and criminal histories. He also advocated closing the loophole for internet and gun show sales.
"Keep up the good work," Bloomberg told volunteers, "We're going to save a lot of lives."
As volunteers sat and noshed on beef skewers, fresh fruit, brownie bites, cheese and crackers, Bloomberg noted that he's plowing money into Democratic races nationwide. The former mayor cited gun attacks on other places of worship, including the 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed six and the church shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, and Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
What neither he nor the others mentioned was that the gathering took place in the same building where a disgruntled client shot and killed a law clerk in 2016.