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Michael Bloomberg on President Trump, Brexit, and Climate Change

October 13, 2017, 8:22 PM UTC

As dire as some see the U.S. government’s stance on climate change, former New York Mayor and current media mogul Michael Bloomberg is fairly optimistic at least on one front.

“America will make the Paris agreement goals with no help from the federal sector whatsoever. It’s all the private sector and local government,” Bloomberg noted Friday during an on-stage interview in Boston.

The Paris accord to limit global greenhouse gas emissions was signed by the U.S. and 120 other countries in 2016. President Donald Trump has said he will pull out of the agreement, although he has subsequently waffled on doing so.

But, in Bloomberg’s view, whatever this administration does or does not do is almost beside the point.

“On climate change, the federal government under Trump certainly and even under Obama didn’t do very much. I don’t think Trump’s going to do much damage because you can’t do less than zero,” he said. It is local government and private industry that have led the way on this issue, he argued.

Cities took action, they painted roofs white to reflect heat, converted to energy-efficient light bulbs and cars. They stored water to reduce runoff. And companies, Bloomberg continued, want to be environmentally friendly so they can attract the best talent, and are also under pressure from customers and stockholders to be eco-friendly, he said.

“We’ve closed coal powered plants at the same rate since Trump was elected as before, he said. The reason is that plant owners are influenced by the economics—natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than coal—as well as what other people or their families think about living near a coal-fired plant.

Bloomberg’s interview took place at the Hubweek event sponsored by the Boston Globe, Harvard University, and others. You can see some other highlights from the interview here.

Bloomberg is no fan of Brexit.

“It is really hard to understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it,” Bloomberg said referring to last year’s referendum by British voters to leave the European Union.

The impact of Brexit will be painful for citizens who will see jobs move outside the country. Many companies are already taking office space elsewhere, he said. Bloomberg L.P., his finance-focused media company, will not be one of them, mostly because it started building two “expensive” new buildings in London before the vote was announced. Had he foreseen Brexit that decision might have been different, he said.

Related: Ignore President Trump on Climate Change, says Michael Bloomberg

Bright job candidates from other countries do not view Britain, or even the U.S. as welcoming anymore, and that is not good for either country.

“Brexit is the single stupidest thing any country has ever done, but then we trumped it,” Bloomberg said.

Education reform is needed.

Public education is in trouble in the U.S. Too often, failing students get passed onto the next grade only to fall further behind. Once that happens, it’s very difficult to catch up. Having said that, not every kid needs to go to an Ivy League college. Most great software programmers were winning contests in the sixth grade, you don’t see them starting later in life, he said.

One way to help would be for the country to focus on vocational schools to train students in mechanical or other skills needed to keep the country running.

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“If you have two kids and one goes to Harvard and the other becomes a plumber’s apprentice, the Harvard kid will never catch up to the plumber,” Bloomberg said.