By Natasha Bach
June 7, 2019

2020 Democratic presidential candidates may be presenting what they would do to combat climate change should they be elected, but one man who decided not to join the crowded race just went a step further.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who decided in March that he would not be throwing his hat in the presidential race ring, announced a $500 million investment in a coordinated campaign to combat climate change Friday.

Beyond Carbon will focus its efforts on bringing the U.S. toward a 100% clean energy economy by exploiting increasingly affordable clean energy technologies and supporting existing efforts at the state and local levels and in the private sector to “build on the leadership and climate progress underway in our states, cities, and communities.”

Bloomberg announced the initiative in a commencement address at MIT on Friday, noting that it will build on his foundation’s existing partnership with the Sierra Club, called Beyond Coal. Beyond Coal launched in 2011 with the aim of closing at least one-third of the country’s coal plants. 289 of the country’s 530 plants have closed to date and Beyond Carbon will work toward closing the remaining plants by 2030.

To get to a clean energy economy, Beyond Carbon calls for transitioning to clean power and electric vehicles, replacing fossil fuels with electricity in buildings to offset emissions, and modernizing industry and infrastructure. It also stipulates that there should be adequate jobs and benefits for everyone—including those who “sacrificed to produce the fossil fuels that built our modern economy.”

“We’re in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we. Beyond Carbon will respond to this crisis with the urgency and ambition that it requires, by taking the fight to the states and turbo-charging current on-the-ground efforts.”

The initiative has defined four “paths to success.” First, it will bypass Washington, working instead with state and local groups to pass climate and clean energy policies. Second, it plans to partner with groups at all levels including grassroots movements to grow the climate movement.

Using the strategies employed by Beyond Coal, it will not only target closing coal-fired power plants but also expand the effort to other fossil fuels, aiming to prevent the construction of new gas plants. Finally, Beyond Carbon will help elect state and local officials who are “climate champions,” capable of driving the movement from the local level.

Ultimately, Beyond Carbon hopes to create a reality in which “the next Administration inherits a country already well on the way to a full clean energy economy.”

Bloomberg reportedly plans to spend the $500 million over the next three years. The New York Times reports that the funds will specifically be targeted at lobbying efforts to close coal plants and replace them with renewable energy as well as at supporting these “climate champion” political candidates.

This will be the largest coordinated campaign Bloomberg has undertaken on the issue, and will largely mimic his approach on gun control, which has also predominantly targeted making change at the state and local level.

Since leaving the Mayor’s office in 2013, Bloomberg has spent $500 million targeting a variety of climate-related efforts, from coalitions to drive climate action on a global level such as the Global Covenant of Mayors to amplifying stories of community-led climate action such as “Paris to Pittsburgh.”

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