On Monday afternoon, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former three-term mayor of New York City, escaped to a deserted ballroom at the Grand Hyatt, in midtown Manhattan, to talk about climate change.
Moments earlier, he had announced to attendees of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit that his philanthropic organization was partnering with the Canadian and British governments to expedite the global eradication of coal mining.
His two new partners—Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, and Claire Perry, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for energy and clean growth—came along for the discussion.
As the only person not representing a country, Bloomberg, in his new role as the U.N.’s special envoy for climate action, seemed like a substitute for American leadership—an alternative to the climate-denying Trump Administration, which Bloomberg called “a meshuggener.” But he immediately brushed aside the idea that the federal government, in this country, at least, can have a major impact on fuel sources or climate policy.
“Coal will go away in any place where there’s a free market, for sure, because the market just forces that, the economics force it,” he told me. “O.K., the federal government can change some environmental regulations, but companies are going to put in the environmental safeguards anyway. Their stockholders are insisting on it, their employees are insisting on it, their customers are insisting on it, and, at the state level, they’re insisting on it.”
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