Bloomberg Philanthropies named Pittsburgh a winner of its American Cities Climate Challenge Sunday, based on the city's plan to reduce carbon emissions. The foundation will give the city more than $2.5 million over the next two years to speed up the implementation of that plan.
“We were looking for cities not only with ambitious goals,” Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in Pittsburgh's West End Sunday, “but also realistic plans for reaching them, and strong mayoral leadership to get jobs done.”
Pittsburgh’s proposal includes measures to eventually use renewable electricity for all city operations, to cut citywide energy consumption in half, and to promote greater use of electric vehicles, according to the city’s Chief Resilience Officer Grant Ervin. Ervin said the city will also devote more resources to improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said climate change has become an increasingly urgent issue locally. Flooding and landslides have become more common in Pittsburgh, he said, because climate change is causing more rainfall.
Peduto added, however, that the city has made significant progress in tackling air and water quality problems stemming from past industrial activity.
“Although we have a long way to still go,” he said, “we have been able to show the rest of the country and the world how a city that had basically destroyed its environment can come back, and succeed economically at the same time.”
Bloomberg said his foundation invited the 100 largest cities in the U.S. to participate in the climate challenge.
“The response could not have been more positive,” Bloomberg added. “Cities all over the country, with both Democratic and Republican mayors, submitted applications.”
So far, the foundation has named nine winners in addition to Pittsburgh: Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. The foundation plans to choose 20 winners in total.
On Sunday, Bloomberg said cities, states, and businesses are at the forefront of the battle against climate change.
“When someone’s child is suffering from asthma because of dirty air, or their streets flood in a storm, they don’t call their member of Congress – they call the mayor,” he said. “Mayors understand that cutting carbon emissions is good for their cities. It makes those cities a better place to live and a better place to work.”
“That doesn’t mean we can let Congress get away with doing nothing,” he added. “Republicans in Washington have buried their heads in the sand on this issue, and many others, too. So, I’ve decided to spend a lot of money helping Democrats win control of the House and the Senate.”
The national political climate also loomed over the event. Bloomberg noted the attention Pittsburgh received in the debate over climate change when President Donald Trump announced his decision in 2017 to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said at the time. Peduto himself, meanwhile, embraced the climate agreement, which aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Bloomberg is a potential contender in 2020 presidential election: he recently registered as a Democrat – again – after stints as a Republican and independent. At Sunday's event, he declined to say whether he’ll run for president. He said he’s focused on helping Democrats take control of the U.S. House. But he did criticize congressional Republicans for not holding Trump accountable and for failing to take action on immigration, climate change, and gun safety – another cause in which he has invested heavily.