Throughout his three terms as Mayor of New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has kept policies designed to fight climate change at the forefront of his agenda.  Most recently, nearly one year following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in New York City and the Mid-Atlantic coast, Bloomberg renewed his calls for mayors of the world’s largest cities to join him in combating climate change.  

According to Bloomberg, nearly half of the world’s population resides in large cities, which combined generate approximately 70% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions.   Therefore, influenced by this statistic, Bloomberg recently stressed that cities should not rely upon state and federal legislation to combat climate change. Instead, he maintains that the leaders of these cities can and should take their own action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

On the global stage, Bloomberg serves as chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a collaboration of cities and research institutions from around the world.  According to Bloomberg, this group, has “taken more than 4,700 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the possible effects of climate change,” and “has the potential to reduce emissions by more than one billion tons a year by 2030 — which is equivalent to making both Canada and Mexico entirely carbon-neutral.”  

Specific to New York City, Bloomberg has overseen the planting of over 500,000 new trees and spearheaded a major bike sharing initiative.   He also implemented a ban on the most-polluting form of heating oil, which according to Bloomberg, has “the potential to reduce [New York City’s] greenhouse gas emissions by at least five percent and save New Yorkers more than $750 million per year in energy costs.”

Although Bloomberg will be exiting the political stage in January 2014 when he completes his final term as Mayor of New York City, we can be sure that his framework for addressing climate change at the city level—rather than at the state and federal levels—will continue to shape the national and international climate change debate for years to come.

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Even before Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, climate change policy had been on the forefront of federal and state legislative agendas.    However, the size and scope of Sandy has brought a new wave of federal and state policy proposals aimed at preventing the frequency and magnitude of superstorms like Sandy.

In Congress, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, is spearheading several efforts aimed at curbing climate change.  Although the legislation was proposed before Sandy, the aftermath of Sandy has renewed Senator Boxer’s calls to enact the Water Resources Development Act of 2012.  This bill authorizes infrastructure improvements to our nation’s water resources in order to reduce flood risk and storm damage and to foster ecosystem restoration. 

Senator Boxer, in a collaborative effort with the Chairs of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also recently proposed the creation of a “clearinghouse” in order to organize the Senate’s efforts on climate change legislation.  She intends the clearinghouse to be a central forum for lawmakers to examine the current state of the science on climate change and to raise federal and state-specific issues of interest.

In New Jersey, one of the states hit hardest by Sandy, the storm may already be shaping New Jersey’s strategic planning and growth efforts.  The State’s strategic development plan was scheduled for release just weeks after the storm; however, its release has been delayed, and according to the Christie Administration, the plan is under reconsideration “in light of the new challenges that have been presented by the storm and the aftermath of the storm.”     

While the predictability of future natural disasters is far from certain, we can be sure that in the aftermath of Sandy, legislative and public policy proposals addressing climate change will be on the horizon.    Indeed, since President Obama specifically mentioned climate change in his Inaugural Address on January 21, 2013, his Administration will likely seek congressional action before the 2014 mid-term elections.  

 

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