Mayor Bill de Blasio called on mayors worldwide to use their bully pulpits to “push a little harder” to improve sustainability and environmentally-friendly policies in their cities, saying it was time to take “matters into our own hands.”
Delivering opening remarks at the 100 Resilient Cities’ Global Resilience Summit, de Blasio reflected on the impact of the Superstorm Sandy of 2012 and stressed that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord demonstrated the need for mayors to take a bigger role on climate change. He also highlighted the progress made under OneNYC, a long-term environmental plan he released in April 2015.
The summit consists of nearly 500 urban resilience leaders from cities throughout the world, including 80 chief resilience officers, gathering in the city to discuss ideas and innovations for their cities and collaborate on new solutions.
“We understand there’s no time for complacency and we can’t wait on anyone else to save us,” he said, adding later: “We are the voices of everyday people, and everyday people can’t wait for these problems to be solved decades down the line. They need them to be solved right now. And so that informal power, that — what Theodore Roosevelt once called the bully pulpit of any mayor anywhere in the world — takes on extraordinary value, and I urge everyone to always go a little farther in what you say, push a little harder.”
He said that Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was “an obvious breaking point in our understanding.” He noted that dozens of people died, thousands and thousands of people were displaced from their homes and that there were “billions of dollars in economic damage.”
“We’re still in the process of recovery today,” he said. “Probably the worst natural disaster in the almost-400-year history of New York City as we know it. That opened up eyes. That helped people to understand it was personal. It wasn’t theory anymore.”
He said that he has asked all city agencies to come back to him in September with ideas “to do more” in light of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord. In response to that move, de Blasio signed an executive order maintaining the city’s commitment to the international agreement.
“I think a lot of you have seen we’re very, very proud in this country — over 300 American cities, in reaction to President Trump’s decisions, over 300 American cities say, ‘Well, if our national government isn’t going to align to the Paris accords, we will,'” he said. “Three hundred American cities said, ‘We’ll do it ourselves.'”
The mayor also touted his OneNYC plan, which aims to create a sustainable, resilient and equitable city and is managed by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Among its goals are to lift 800,000 New Yorkers—almost one-tenth of the city’s population—out of poverty over the next 10 years, zero waste to landfills by 2030, stopping long-term displacement from homes and jobs after shock events and lowering the city’s green house gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
During his opening remarks, de Blasio said that the city has reduced emissions by 14 percent since 2005 and that the city is on track to lift nearly 280,000 people out of poverty by the end of the year—noting that it is three years into the decade-long endeavor—and into an “economically sustainable lifestyle.”