UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
By Maria Hasan
NEW YORK, 6 February 2014 – The vital role of cities as engines of climate resilience has been recognised with the appointment of the former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said: “Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in reducing New York’s disaster risks has been exemplary. During his time as mayor, he made urban sustainability and resilience a priority, demonstrating that cities on the frontline of disaster risk can innovate and adapt quickly. This appointment will provide a great boost to the mayors and other leaders representing the 1,600 cities and towns participating in UNISDR’s Making Cities Campaign.”
Mr. Bloomberg served for 12 years as the 108th mayor of New York City until December 31, 2013. He convened the first New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) in 2008, a body of leading risk management experts, climatologists and social scientists to help accomplish the goals outlined in PlaNYC, the City’s long term sustainability plan.
He convened the second Panel following Hurricane Sandy in January 2013 with the aim of increasing the resiliency of communities, city wide systems, and infrastructure to a range of climate risks. The NPCC is obliged to meet twice a year to review recent scientific data on climate change and its potential impacts and to advise the
City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability on a communications strategy related to climate science.
In this new role, he is set to work with mayors and mobilize action among cities to combat climate change and increase urban resilience.
Elina Palm who heads UNISDR’s New York office said: “The Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability launched PlaNYC in 2007 under which sections of the city were rebuilt, rezoned and refashioned to better cope with hazards.
“One of Mayor Bloomberg’s outstanding achievements was to ensure that disaster risk reduction became a priority for the city with a strong institutional basis for implementation as recommended in the Hyogo Framework for Action, the international agreement on disaster risk reduction. Without PlaNYC in place, the damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 would have been much worse.”
Mr. Bloomberg also co-chairs the Risky Business Initiative, which is currently undertaking an independent risk assessment of the United States to reveal the likely financial risk the US faces from climate change. The results are expected in the summer of 2014.