Michael Bloomberg commits $242 million to fighting climate change in developing countries

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, will announce a $242 million program to promote clean energy in 10 developing countries as part of his effort to combat climate change, the New York Times reported Tuesday morning. The spending by Bloomberg Philanthropies will target Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.

Working with nonprofit partners such as the ClimateWorks Foundation and Sustainable Energy for All, Bloomberg’s organization will develop plans with local and national governments to most effectively deploy the funding. Possible approaches include research, public education, clean energy pilot programs and buyouts to close coal plants sooner than planned.

Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg
Philanthropist and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Alastair Grant/Pool via Reuters) (REUTERS)

“Which strategies are appropriate for each country will really be guided by the in-country partners who know them best,” Helen Mountford, president of ClimateWorks, told the Times.

Bloomberg committed last year to helping phase out coal-fired power plants in 25 countries. At the time, he described coal as “​​enemy No. 1 in the battle over climate change,” noting that the fossil fuel is responsible for one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Most efforts to transition the power sector to clean sources of energy such as wind and solar have been focused on developed countries, where the lion’s share of energy is consumed and most of the greenhouse gases causing climate change are emitted. Bloomberg already spends roughly $150 million per year to end coal use in the United States and Europe.

In 2011, he pledged $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to retire one-third of the U.S. coal fleet by 2020. Thanks to the fracking boom in natural gas and dropping prices for renewable energy, that goal was surpassed by 2017.

But with the majority of the world’s population in developing nations, many of which have rapidly growing economies, the future emissions trajectory depends heavily on what happens to the power sector in the developing world.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for phasing out coal by the end of this decade in rich countries and by 2040 in developing countries.

A June 2021 International Energy Agency report warned that to avoid catastrophic climate change, clean energy finance in developing countries needs to increase from less than $150 billion per year currently to more than $1 trillion per year by 2030.

“The alternative is to meet growing energy needs by burning more coal, which would have disastrous consequences for public health and for the battle against climate change,” Bloomberg told the Times.