UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was appointed Friday to be the U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change, a position that will give the billionaire businessman and philanthropist an international stage to press for action to combat global warming.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chose Bloomberg, who made combating climate change a major focus of his 12 years as mayor and was very outspoken on how cities should be run to cope with ever increasing populations without harming the environment.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Bloomberg will assist the U.N. chief in his consultations with mayors and other key parties "to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his longer-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change."
The secretary-general also wants Bloomberg to bring "concrete solutions" to the climate summit he is hosting in New York on Sept. 23 to try to galvanize action to combat climate change, Haq said.
Bloomberg, 71, tweeted that he was "honored" by the appointment.
"Cities are taking measurable action to reduce emissions, emerging as leaders in the battle against climate change," he tweeted. "I look forward to working with cities around the world and the UN to accelerate progress" to combat global warming.
Bloomberg served three terms as New York's mayor before handing the reins of the America's largest city to Bill de Blasio on Jan. 1.
He is scheduled to co-host the Feb. 4-6 mayors' summit of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in Johannesburg.
The group is a network of large cities from around the world committed to taking measures locally that reduce climate-warming greenhouse gases and global climate risks.
At the summit, Bloomberg will hand over the chair and presidency of the group to Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
His appointment drew widespread praise.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted: "We need your energy and hard work to help address climate change."
Former vice-president Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for spotlighting the impact of climate change, tweeted, "Mike Bloomberg will bring leadership & unique experience to UN Special Envoy post — an important job at a crucial time."
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted that "Mike Bloomberg knows how to get things done. We need more leaders like him here at the @UN."
Last year, Bloomberg boasted that New York city's air quality hit its highest levels in 50 years and now has the cleanest air of any major American city.
He said the level of sulfur dioxide in the air has gone down by 69 percent since 2008. The level of soot pollution has gone down by 23 percent since 2007 — achievements officials attributed to a combination of factors, including buildings burning lower-pollution heating oils or switching over to cleaner burning natural gas.
Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called Bloomberg "a perfect choice for the U.N. special envoy."
Bloomberg was "a leader in tackling climate change pollution" during his tenure as mayor," Lehner said, and he "understands first-hand that our cities must act now to safeguard residents from the impacts of climate change, and that it can be done in a way that will deliver economic benefits at the same time."
Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson contributed to this report from the United Nations