NEW YORK — The new Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Global Business Forum will act as a powerful platform for people to make major deals and launch influential dialogues on development, politics, and climate change, Michael Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, told Devex.
“People get to know each other, and there are really people who you see [and say], ‘I’ve never met you before,’” the former New York City mayor said at a media briefing in response to a Devex question about the significance of the event. “Later on, deals will be made. Once they know each other, it’s a lot easier to go back.”
Bloomberg appeared to embrace the influential role that the now-closed Clinton Global Initiative once held during the packed week of events surrounding the United Nations General Assembly. His goal for the Global Business Forum — which, with all of the companies present, represents economic firepower equivalent to the world’s fourth largest economy — is political and policy influence that extends well beyond the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. The forum, as Devex has reported, grew out of a similar regional forum Bloomberg Philanthropies had hosted in Africa in recent years.
“The press covers this, and so they see their leaders and the companies they work for invest and care about climate change. It builds in [politicians] minds that we have got to do something about that. Governments are very democratic. They really do listen to the public. It is not perfect, but they do listen. If the public wants action, they will do it,” he continued.
The various technology leaders such Apple’s Tim Cook, global health leaders such as Bill Gates, and heads of state such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to this common theme, as discussions gravitated from talk of the SDGs to mass migration. People also flowed in and out of the plenary session into closed side sessions on climate change and other issues.
Speakers pointed to a need for new partnerships and forums for cross-cutting collaboration. That may be especially true as the U.S. government appears to pull back as a unifying force for international diplomacy, funding, and development. Certainly President Donald Trump’s debut speech to the U.N. this week outlined a diplomatic vision in which nations — including the U.S. — were best served by focusing on their own interests.
This “shift in Washington,” as described by Frederica Mogherini, the high representative for the European Union’s foreign affairs and security policy, has brought on a more Euro-centric reality for global influence, she told listeners during a plenary session.
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“What I've seen in this year is that the rest of the world is now looking at Europe for leadership. And we can do it. We feel the responsibility of doing that,” she said.
“I believe, as Europeans, we have learned, over the last year, to be, maybe, more aware of our strengths. There are things like the priority we give to multinationalism, or the U.N. system, or conflict prevention and peacekeeping, or climate change — and I could continue, the nonproliferation system — that we think are key to our own security, to our own future,” she added.
There also is a need to look increasingly to cities for action on climate change.
Bloomberg, World Bank President Jim Kim, and U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa announced the launch of a new climate change partnership that will direct more funding to major cities, nearly 90 percent of which are located along coastlines.
“Financing is key to making key progress of implementing the Paris agreement and honoring this commitment,” Espinosa said of the deal, which became effective in November 2016. Through national targets and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it aims to lower global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Governments need to set hard targets,” Kim said. “There’s no way that through meetings and through holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ will be we get to 2 degrees Celsius.”
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