NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday he would contribute $500 million toward closing coal-fired power plants across the United States, in a clash with White House effort to revive a fossil fuel blamed for climate change.
The billionaire philanthropist’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, said its Beyond Carbon initiative would lobby to close about 250 coal-fired power plants by 2030 and make the country fully reliant on clean energy.
“We’re in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years,” he said, when U.S. President Donald Trump’s current term in office ends.
The U.N. World Meteorological Organization said last November global temperatures were on course for a 3C to 5C (5.4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) increase this century, far overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to 2C or less.
Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of a 2015 global accord to fight climate change and has backed continuing planet-warming extraction and use of fossil fuels.
The donation by Bloomberg, tapped last year to become the U.N. Secretary General’s special envoy for cities and climate change, was the “largest-ever philanthropic effort to fight the climate crisis”, his philanthropic group said in a statement.
Bloomberg Philanthropies will team up with environmental U.S. non-profit the Sierra Club to focus on state-level action aimed at closing coal plants and halting a “rush to build new (natural) gas plants,” it said.
Natural gas, like coal, emits greenhouse gas emissions, though fewer of them.
“We will employ advocacy, legal and electoral strategies,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
Specifically, Beyond Carbon will strive to pass clean energy laws and “work to elect state and local candidates who are climate champions”, it said in a statement.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show the share of U.S. power plants powered by coal has plummeted in the last decade, from about 600 in 2007 to about 360 a decade later.
The Sierra Club, which tallies coal-fired power plants nationwide, estimates there are a remaining 241.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Brian Greenhill, an associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, part of the State University of New York system.
But “if it’s received as a war on coal miners then it will just generate a backlash”, he warned.
Bloomberg, 77, served three terms as mayor of New York, before stepping down in 2013.
Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate