© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Michael Bloomberg participates at a televised town hall in Manassas, Virginia, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, launched an $85 million campaign to block plans to build petrochemical and plastics plants across the United States on Wednesday, based on his decades-long effort to shut down coal plants.
Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman who is currently the United Nations special envoy for climate ambitions, says his charity’s Beyond Petrochemicals campaign will “boost” local community efforts in places such as Cancer Alley of Louisiana, Texas, and Appalachia to prevent licensing and construction. of heavy-emitting plants.
The campaign is aimed at the rapid expansion of US plastic and petrochemical pollution. The International Energy Agency says the plastics and petrochemicals industries will exceed carbon emissions from coal-fired power by 2030 and account for half of oil demand growth by 2050.
“This campaign will help ensure more local wins, support legislation that protects communities from harm and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling the climate crisis,” Bloomberg said. .
Bloomberg Philanthropies says the industry’s planned expansion could account for 15% of US greenhouse gas emissions, which could cause the US to miss its target under the Paris climate agreement to halve emissions. emissions by 2030, Bloomberg Philanthropies said.
At least 90 petrochemical and plastic projects have been proposed over the past decade, including 42 major construction projects that will release greenhouse gas emissions and other hazardous air pollutants, according to the Environmental Integrity Project. school, monitoring construction plans.
Plastics and petrochemicals trade groups have called Bloomberg’s campaign a “misguided” attempt to tackle the problem of plastic waste.
“If Mr. Bloomberg wants to help people, it couldn’t be clearer that plastics save lives and improve our quality of life,” said Matt Seaholm, president and chief executive officer of the Plastics Industry Association. spending on recycling programs. “His misguided campaign will create more problems than it solves.”
Frontline minority and low-income communities living where some of these projects are proposed have led to fierce battles to block key airline permits and force enforcement of environmental protections. at existing facilities.
Just this month, activists in St. James of Louisiana claimed victory when a judge revoked key aviation permits issued by state regulators for a plastic project planned by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics and when the state canceled the plan. plans to build a methanol plant after nearly a decade.
“Investments like these give back to communities disproportionately impacted by this kind of environmental racism,” said Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.
Bloomberg has spent more than $500 million to support the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which initially aimed to retire 30% of the US coal fleet by 2020 but eventually accelerated the decommissioning of more than 60 % of coal plants in that year. It has expanded to target gas infrastructure.
After a failed presidential run in 2020, Bloomberg has continued to run climate campaigns and work on climate diplomacy in his role at the United Nations.
The campaign focuses on community advocacy and legal action to reach settlements with utilities in order to accelerate the closing of old coal plants and their replacement with renewable energy.