FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2007
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT THE CHINESE ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s speech as prepared.
"Xie Xie nimen de zhao dai. I asked my mother, who is 98 years old but still going strong, if she would like to come with me to China. She asked me how long the flight was, and when I told her, she thought about it and said, 'I don't feel like taking such a long trip, but be sure to say hello to the Chinese people for me.' So on behalf of my mother, I would like to say to all of you, 'Ni men hao!'
"It is a great honor to speak at this renowned center of learning, which is marking its 30th anniversary. During those three decades, China has truly emerged as a major force in the world economy. Over that time, China's economy has grown at an astonishing rate of almost 10 percent a year. And its economic output has increased more than eightfold.
"China has now become the world's fourth-largest trading nation, and a powerful magnet for foreign investment. And since 1977, China has accounted for three-fourths of all the people in the world who have been lifted out of the deepest poverty.
"These are extraordinary achievements. They're accomplishments that the people of China can take enormous pride in, and ones that the teachers and graduates of this great institution have played a large role in helping to realize. And when the 2008 Olympics are held in Beijing, China's proud achievements will be on display for the entire world to see.
"Over the past 30 years, the people of my own city of New York have also overcome significant challenges. And we're proud of what we've accomplished, too. In the late 1970s, many 'experts' thought that New York was hopelessly caught in a downward spiral of rampant crime, a deteriorating economy, and population decline. They thought that New York had no future. But New Yorkers proved them wrong.
"Today, our economy is strong. Our streets are safer and cleaner than they have been in decades. Our people are healthier and living longer than average Americans, in large part because we've reduced smoking, the major cause of indoor air pollution in the world, by 20 percent in just five years. We did this by increasing the tobacco tax and making virtually all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. In fact, my personal philanthropic foundation is working here in this part of the world to stop smoking that will otherwise kill a billion people this century.
"Measures like that are making our population healthier and more productive. They're part of the reason why more people are coming to, and staying in, New York City. Our population is eight and one-quarter million people and growing. I know that doesn't rival Beijing's population. But it makes us by far the largest city in the United States.
"Now, as we look to the future together, the questions before New York, and before China, too, are: How can we continue to build on the gains that we have worked so hard to win?; How can we sustain our economic growth while living within the resources available to us?; How can we 'Green our environment and also grow our economy?' People around the globe also are struggling to answer these same questions.
"These are the questions that have drawn representatives of the world's nations to Bali this week for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and that includes, I am told, a delegation from this Academy.
"In a few days, it will be my great honor to speak before that gathering as the designated representative of the international organization called Local Governments for Sustainability, and by extension, the 3.3 billion men, women and children-half the people of the world-who inhabit the cities of the earth.
"Climate change is not a distant problem; it poses enormous and immediate environmental, economic, and social challenges to us all. Just last month, the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this year's Nobel Laureate in Peace, published an assessment of global warming. It predicted that continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would very likely produce climate changes 'greater than those observed during the 20th century.'
"This could create critical stresses on fresh water supplies in Asia's river basins; threaten agricultural production in Africa; intensify heat waves in Europe and North America; and cause increases in other extreme weather patterns around the globe. And just a year ago, Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist for the World Bank, warned in his own study of global warming that such climactic changes could produce: 'Risks of major disruption to economic and social activity on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.' These are very grim predictions. And we all share a strong interest in preventing them from coming true.
"President Hu has outlined his vision for a 'harmonious society' in China. He rightly recognizes that such a harmonious society must include a healthy environment. That is a message that people everywhere must heed. Because if we fail to preserve our environment, people everywhere could face the kind of social chaos that Sir Nicholas warns us of. Humanity's impact on our global climate is converging with a second, powerful, and rapidly accelerating force: The urbanization of the world's population.
"Fifty years ago, fewer than 100 of the world's cities had populations of one million or more people. Within 10 years, nearly 500 cities will. Many of these rapidly growing cities are right here in China. When this Academy was founded 30 years ago, China's urban population was some 170 million people. Since then, that urban population has more than tripled.
"Some people believe that by mid-century, as many as 75 percent of China's population may be city dwellers. Even an occasional visitor to China like me is struck by this rapid urbanization. It is one of the largest internal migrations of people in the history of the world-and unless it is planned for, it could accelerate the already alarming pace of global climate change, as well as other serious environmental challenges.
"Cities around the world already account for some 80 percent of humanity's production of the heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming. City dwellers are truly on the frontlines of climate change. And across the globe, cities are also on the frontlines of limiting the effects of that climate change.
"Beijing took the lead by banning the use of high-sulfur coal for heating and cooking. Shanghai and other municipalities have followed. And the introduction of efficient electric-powered automobiles holds great promise for countries around the world.
"After my remarks, I look forward to going outside and seeing some of the latest-model battery-powered all-electric cars that an American company-Miles Automotive Group-is developing in partnership with the Chinese Automotive Technical and Research Center or 'CAT-ARC,' the Chinese Electronic Technology Group Corporation, Lishen Battery Company, and the city of Tianjin.
"I will be joined by the chair of Miles Automotive Group, Miles Rubin, and its chief operating officer, Kevin Kiley. As well as by their Chinese partners: Zhao Hang, director of CATARC; Wang Xi Wen, vice-superintendent of Chinese Electronic Technology Group Corporation; Qin Xing Cai, general manager of Lishen Battery; Liang Rui, deputy general manager at Lishen Battery; and Wu Zhi Qin, general manager of Tianjin Qingyuan Electric Vehicle Company.
"Assembled here in China, the cars they are making can be marketed to drivers in both our nations, and in South America and the European Union, too. The result is a marriage of U.S. and Chinese technology that is taking us forward-toward 100 percent electric-powered vehicles that drastically reduce air pollutants, cut carbon emissions, and are less expensive to operate.
"New York City is also aggressively battling climate change. Our city's population continues to grow, and is expected to reach nine million by the year 2030. Even so, we're committed to shrinking our carbon footprint by 30 percent by that same year of 2030. As the servants of the people, I believe strongly that City government has a responsibility to lead the private sector by example rather than just by fiat. So we are working to reduce the greenhouse gases that City agencies produce by 30 percent within the next ten years-by 2017.
"Now, New York, and also Beijing, have been spurred to take these actions not only because they help reduce global warming but also because they're vital to cleaning the air that we all breathe. And working to improve the earth's climate also has the additional virtue of improving the business climate of our cities. It's a way to grow the economies of our cities while greening our cities, too. In urban environments, air pollution and climate change often arise from many of the same sources, such as power plants and automobiles.
"In New York, we call our sustainability agenda for the city's future PlaNYC. It includes 127 separate initiatives. Nearly half of them simultaneously address air quality, climate change, and our long-term economic growth. Because I hope someday to be invited back to China, I will not try your patience by describing each one of them to you in detail now. But let me illustrate my point with just two examples.
"The first has to do with trees. New York has just embarked on an ambitious program to plant one million new trees throughout the city over the next ten years-40 times the number of trees in our famous Central Park. These new trees will not only provide cooling shade on our streets. They will take carbon dioxide out of the air, which will reduce our global warming impact.
"They will clean our air by filtering out pollutants. And they will also increase the beauty and the value of the neighborhoods in which they're planted-many of which are communities that now lack trees on their streets and in their parks.
"My second example involves automobiles. New York is also working with our partners in State government to study ways to charge automobile drivers a price for coming into the busiest business districts of the city during the busiest hours of the work week. This initiative, called congestion pricing, would also achieve victories on the same three fronts.
"It would shrink our production of greenhouse gases, make our air cleaner, and also enhance our economy both by reducing the traffic congestion that costs the New York City metropolitan region an estimated $13 billion annually while also raising money that will finance much-needed mass transit projects.
"Singapore, Stockholm, and London have all successfully implemented such congestion pricing systems. In fact, I was recently in London and saw its success with congestion pricing with my own eyes. I understand that a similar idea is under consideration in Shanghai as well. In fact, it's clear that all cities need to do more, and also that we all have a great deal to learn from one another.
"That's why today I am announcing that my city, through an organization called New York City Global Partners, is inviting representatives from more than 20 of the world's major cities to New York next year for a two-day conference in mid-2008. It will address the challenges that we all share in reducing urban air pollution and curbing climate change. It will feature experts from around the world in transportation, city planning, public health, and other disciplines.
"Of course, the great Chinese cities I'm visiting on this trip, Beijing and Shanghai, are invited. I'm confident that each of the cities that participates will have something to contribute, and that we all will have something to learn.
"In New York, we've devoted enormous time and talent to developing our plan for keeping New York 'green and growing' in the future. We've done that because we want to lock in and build on all the gains that New York has made in the past 30 years. And we know that those gains could be lost if we don't protect them with far-sighted policies and wise investments now.
"China has also made enormous gains in these past 30 years. And people everywhere want to see China continue to develop and prosper. And so my city and your nation both find that we must confront climate change and the related problems of sustainability. So do people around the world. Because the science concerning climate change is now clear.
"The time for discussion is over; the time for action-concerted action by people in every nation-is at hand. The message that must come out of Bali this week is that governments and corporations, giant organizations and individuals, nations in the developed world, and the developing world: All must do their part.
"China and the US are both large consumers of energy and we have a responsibility to work together to put the brakes on climate change. The effects are already being felt here in China, as the Gobi Desert expands at a rate of more than 3,000 square kilometers a year. The effects are being felt in the United States as well, with droughts and hurricanes causing terrible damage and pain. We must work in concert toward immediate, realizable goals even as we recognize that achieving them will be only the beginning of a very long struggle.
"Even in the short term, the air quality in both countries' big cities is growing increasingly unacceptable. In New York, for example, in some neighborhoods children have four times the national average of asthma attacks. And the air quality in Beijing for the Olympics is a serious concern that the government is addressing.
"The task before us is so immense that it will demand far greater use of alternative and emerging technologies, from increased reliance on wind and solar energy, to the wider distributed generation of power by fuel cells. The hopeful news for our planet is that developing such energy sources will spur an outpouring of innovation that will improve the quality of life for people everywhere. But it's not enough to work for bold innovations that won't pay off for another 30 or 40 years.
"We can't wait for the technology of the future to do what needs to be done-urgently-today. In the wisdom of a proverb that originated so long ago here in China, and that has now been adopted throughout the world: A journey of one thousand li starts with a single step. It is up to us, here and now, to begin that journey.
"Thank you one and all for your warm reception and your great hospitality. Xie Xie."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958
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