UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at City Hall yesterday. The two seemed at ease in each other’s company, hopefully setting the stage for the continued relationship between the city and its extraterritorial inhabitant. New York and the UN have sometimes had a rocky relationship, but if this meeting is any indication it looks like Mayor de Blasio will take a cue from his predecessor Michael Bloomberg and forge an alliance with the United Nations over a common cause: climate change.
Things have not always been so chummy between the UN and New York City. Before the September 11 attacks, Rudy Giuliani had a particularly testy relationship with his Turtle Bay inhabitants, with Giuliani telling the New York Times that pre-2001 his relationship with Turtle Bay “consisted of trying to get them to pay parking tickets.” Still, in 2004, he had kind words regarding the UN in light of the “potent strain of isolationism” that had taken root in his Republican party in the wake of the Iraq war beginning.
Bloomberg came into office in an equally tough time for the city and the world. Initially a Republican, Bloomberg, like Giuliani, did not subscribe to some of the party’s voices on de-funding and dismantling the UN. For the most part, the Mayor stayed out the disaster that was John Bolton’s turn as U.S. Ambassador to the UN and chose to focus of city operations and 9/11 clean up, only becoming a more vocal supporter after the Ambassador’s resignation was announced. Independently wealthy and independent politically, Bloomberg was not beholden to fundraisers and UN critics the way Giuliani may have been and was able to distance himself a bit during the Bush administration’s fury over the UN and the Iraq war.
Bloomberg used the ‘New York Strong’ sentiment to build his vision of ‘New York, Sustainable.’ Climate change action and ‘greening’ the city with bike lanes and LEED-certified construction became a priority issue for Bloomberg and common cause helped bring Turtle Bay back into the fold of the city. It didn’t hurt that Ban Ki Moon had also taken up climate change as a singular issue right about the same time. By the end of his term, the relationship became so close that Bloomberg was appointed Ban Ki Moon’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and Cities by the Secretary General.
De Blasio is now running his leg of that relay. Yesterday, he said that the UN’s Climate Summit in September is “literally one of the moments where we believe there’s an opportunity for real progress on what is arguably one of the most fundamental issues facing the entire globe.” Ban invited de Blasio to attend the Summit — as he has wisely decided to include more than just diplomats in the process, but also mayors of cities around the world.
With this meeting coming on the heels of the President’s announcement on new carbon emissions rules for power plants, it was readily apparent from the tone in conversation that Ban and de Blasio consider each other as true partners on the issue of urban climate change action. “Big cities like New York generate and create some problems,” Ban said. “But at this home of innovation, we can find solutions from this great city.”