- Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the $70 million American Cities Climate Challenge on Friday, an initiative that will select 20 mayors to participate in a two-year program designed to combat climate change. The announcement marks the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.
- The challenge is open to the 100 most populous U.S. cities, but only cities that have signed the We Are Still In declaration will be eligible. The selected "Leadership Cities" will be provided a number of resources to help reach the Paris Agreement target, including a support package of $2.5 million, a "Climate Advisor," data resources, leadership development resources and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
- Applications for the challenge open on June 19 and close on July 13. Applications will be reviewed and cities will be visited through September, and winners are slated to be announced in the fall.
Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement lit a fire in local governments to pursue climate action despite disengagement from the federal government. Aside from the We Are Still In coalition, which as gained more than 2,700 signatories in the last year, mayors and city leaders have also signed various climate charters and declarations to promote clean energy targets, zero-emissions transit and other measurable climate goals.
This newest climate challenge will not only help to deliver tangible results — the original Paris Agreement goal is a 26% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels — but will also help to set a standard and roadmap for how cities outside of the 20 selected winners can achieve success in mitigation efforts. In its announcement, Bloomberg Philanthropies lists ways cities are already pushing these efforts, such as retrofitting buildings in St. Louis and installing solar arrays in Orlando, FL.
While a two-year program is a significant responsibility for the selected cities to upkeep, especially over the course of an election season when many mayoral transitions will occur, the program will be a test of cities' longstanding climate commitments. Bloomberg notes that cities going through such transitions are welcome to apply, though they must "think about how they will anticipate and manage through this transition to ensure that the climate work stays on track."
Considering Bloomberg's frequent contributions toward advancing local leadership, this will not be the last time we see such a significant investment from him or the philanthropic organization. In a recent open letter on philanthropy, Bloomberg said, "As cities of all sizes grow in both population and power, Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue finding new ways to help them. And here in the U.S., we will continue driving progress from the bottom up by supporting leaders in both parties who respect facts and data — and who have the courage to use them."