Michael Bloomberg: Americans 'Are Here To Fight Climate Change'

President Trump's decision on June 1 to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change raised fears that the removal of the world's second-largest carbon emitter from the pact would doom global environmental efforts. But the former three-term mayor of the largest American city reaffirmed that beyond the federal government, Americans remain very interested in adhering to the accord.

"It’s important that the world knows that the United States people are still committed to leading the way to fighting climate change no matter what happens in Washington," former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at Asia Society on Wednesday. "Over the last decade, the United States has reduced emissions more than any other nation — and Washington has had very little if not zero to do with that."

Prior to Trump's withdrawal, 630 American companies — including giants like Apple, Google, Chevron, and General Motors — signed an open letter to the president and Congress advocating that the U.S. remain in the accord. And in the days after the announcement, more than 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses, attorneys general, investors, and colleges and universities declared their intention to continue pursuing the Paris Agreement goals.

"Subnational action to combat climate change was not born of the Trump announcement, but it is accelerating rapidly in response to it," Jackson Ewing, the director of sustainability at the Asia Society Policy Institute, wrote about the phenomenon last week in Asia Blog.

Bloomberg, an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose net worth of $47 billion makes him the world's eighth-richest person, has pledged to coordinate climate change policies adopted by subnational entities and to guarantee the funding that the United Nations Climate Secretariat could lose should the U.S. decides not to honor the commitment.

The former mayor's remarks occurred during a high-level gathering of Chinese and foreign dignitaries that included China's Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai, former Hong Kong Chief Executive C.H. Tung, Asia Society Policy Institute President and former Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and Asia Society President Josette Sheeran. The dominant subject of the discussion — besides climate change — was China's groundbreaking Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a sweeping plan to finance infrastructure projects linking Asia, Europe, and Africa. BRI encompasses over 60 countries whose combined GDP is around half of the world's total and includes projects that range from a nuclear plant in the U.K. to a railroad in Ethiopia.

The purpose of BRI is partly to find new markets for Chinese companies currently experiencing over-capacity. But the geopolitical implications of China's outward push — at a time when the U.S. federal government appears to be in retreat from the world stage — was not lost on the panelists. 

"China stands for connectivity," said Cui Tiankai. "This connectivity means more than linking roads and bridges together: also policy, trade, financial flows, and people-to-people exchanges. This connectivity will make it possible to build stronger bonds among nations and join hands to respond to growing global challenges that transcend national boundaries.”

Watch the complete video of Wednesday's program below:

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Matt Schiavenza is the Assistant Director of Content at Asia Society. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Fortune, and strategy + business among other publications.