Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was appointed Friday to be the U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change, a position that will give the billionaire businessman and philanthropist an international stage to fight global warming.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon chose Bloomberg, who made combating climate change a major focus of his 12 years as mayor and was very outspoken on how cities should be run, to cope with ever increasing populations without harming the environment.
Bloomberg also advocated for national climate change legislation. He has played a leading role in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international group of mayors created in 2005 and dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The C40 group, of which Bloomberg is president of the board, is to meet in Johannesburg next week.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Bloomberg will assist the U.N. chief in his consultations with mayors and other key parties "to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his longer-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change."
The secretary general also wants Bloomberg to bring "concrete solutions" to the climate summit he is hosting in New York on Sept. 23 to try to galvanize action to combat climate change, Haq said.
Bloomberg, 71, tweeted that he was "honored" by the appointment.
"Cities are taking measurable action to reduce emissions, emerging as leaders in the battle against climate change," he tweeted. "I look forward to working with cities around the world and the UN to accelerate progress" to combat global warming.
Bloomberg announced last month that New York City's greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 19 percent since 2005, putting the city nearly two-thirds of the way to meeting the goal he set five years ago.
In the blueprint he launched in 2007, called PlaNYC 2030, Bloomberg set a goal to slash citywide emissions 30 percent by 2030 through a number of initiatives, such as requiring hybrid taxi cabs, building bike lanes and retrofitting municipal buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called Bloomberg "a perfect choice for the U.N. special envoy."
Bloomberg was "a leader in tackling climate change pollution during his tenure as mayor," Lehner said, and he "understands first-hand that our cities must act now to safeguard residents from the impacts of climate change, and that it can be done in a way that will deliver economic benefits at the same time."
The United Nations will host the one-day climate change summit in New York on Sept. 23. Many developing nations want that to be a deadline for rich countries to outline planned cuts in greenhouse gases beyond 2020 as a key step towards a global climate deal in 2015.