SAO PAULO – In the financial market, talking about Michael Bloomberg, American businessman and former mayor of New York, refers to the traditional information terminal and the company he founded, baptized with his last name. In other environments, however, he is known for different reasons – such as his dedication to discussions about climate change.
Reelected in February to the post of special envoy of the UN (United Nations) for Climate Ambitions and Solutions – a position he held for the first time in 2014 and from which he left in 2020 to dispute the Democratic Party’s seat in the American presidential elections – Bloomberg participated in the panel “The challenges of the market, cities and climate” this Tuesday (24), at the 11th edition of Expert XP. Held every year by XP, the event is considered one of the largest investment festivals in the world.
“I hope it’s not a fad,” Bloomberg responded to Alberto Bernal, XP’s global strategist who interviewed him during the panel, about the intensification of the ESG movement, which focuses on environmental, social and governance practices (environment, social , governance) adopted by companies. “We need substantive actions that really change things, and that will only happen if you do something that includes everyone.”
Global warming is one of the themes highlighted by Bloomberg. In the panel, the businessman recalled that the effects of the increase in temperature on the planet are beginning to appear in the form of extreme weather events – such as the recent floods in Germany, fires in Greece and California, in the USA, and the lack of water in many other corners, including in Brazil.
“Things are worse today than they’ve ever been before. There is no doubt about it, the science is there”, he said. In his view, the recommendation that something needs to be done to change the scenario by 2050 is outdated, as much of what was predicted for the distant future seems to be being anticipated. “No one in a political job today will be in it in 2050. In fact, three-quarters or more of the people alive today will not be alive in 2050,” he said.
When companies promise to do something by 2050, or when a government promises, what a shame. We shouldn’t let them get away with it, that’s ridiculous.
Regarding possible innovative solutions to the climate problem, Bloomberg highlighted that many of them – such as geoengineering, carbon capture or new forms of fusion to generate energy –, although being developed, will still take years to be implemented on a commercial scale. But there is work to be done right away.
One of his forays is into coal-fired power generation plants. Through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the entrepreneur launched a campaign in 2011 aimed at shutting down at least a third of coal-fired plants in the United States. More than half of them had closed down by 2019, when, with a new donation of $500 million, Bloomberg took on the goal of closing the rest by 2030.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is that in China they are building more new plants,” he said. There are also no efforts to stop methane leaks from old mines. “In India, they’re talking about just making electric cars. That sounds great for the ESG score. The problem is that there they generate all the electricity with coal”. If gasoline isn’t wonderful, according to Bloomberg, coal is even worse. It is because of the need to establish coordinated efforts, which do not cancel each other out, that the entrepreneur defends the joint action of the leaders of different countries.
Owner of a fortune estimated at more than US$ 60 billion, the businessman said that he decided to get involved in politics after hearing people say that there is no solution to society’s problems, such as crime, low educational levels, social vulnerability , between others. “This is not true. I think you can solve some of these things. There are solutions to all these problems, and generally the reason they are not implemented is politics,” he said.
Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York for 12 years, said he often hears from people that he has done a lot for the city in his third term – a view he refutes. “Most of the things we delivered in the third term were started in the first or second term,” he said.
In topics such as investment in infrastructure, this effect is even more evident, said the businessman. Just the time needed to deal with the legal challenges of building a high-speed railroad, for example, can add up to a decade. Therefore, even if a lot of money goes to the area, according to Bloomberg, it is likely that much will be spent on projects that society really doesn’t need, and not on a big long-term project.
“Elected officials who vote for a long-term bill get all the sympathy from the people who don’t like the bill and the irritation from the people who have to pay for it, and they won’t even be asked to cut the ribbon when it’s delivered,” he said. “And whoever is the mayor or the president then, they certainly don’t want to share the credit with someone they’ve never met before.”
The polarization of society and politics has also called the attention of entrepreneurs, for whom the background is the growth of social media. “The entire social media network is built on the ability to know what you want and to feed you content about it, because then they can sell you more products,” he said. The logic works for anyone researching baby products, baseball as a sport, and also left-wing or right-wing politics.
“It’s not necessarily bad, you might like that. But that is the fundamental difference between our society today and that of 20 or 30 years ago. It’s my explanation of why everything is so polarized in all Latin countries, and certainly in the US as well,” he said. To find a solution, in Bloomberg’s view, there must be leaders capable of grouping, not polarizing. “It’s hard to find them and it’s hard to elect them, but I argue that they exist, and we have a history in the world of who manages to bring people together.”
As advice to Brazilian politicians, Bloomberg suggested: “Tell the truth. Better to fall into the flames for doing the right thing than to keep your job and be a hypocrite.” The businessman recalled that a year after being elected for the first time to the mayor of New York, he implemented a significant increase in taxes. “We were losing police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses because we couldn’t pay them. If you want to have clean and safe streets, to be healthy, to have educated children, the money has to come from somewhere.” Despite the measure, unpopular at first, he ended up being re-elected twice more.
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