Watch CBS News

Bloomberg to put $500M into closing all remaining coal plants by 2030

Clinging to Coal: West Virginia's Fight Over Green Jobs
Clinging to coal: West Virginia's fight over green jobs 24:05

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is plunging $500 million into an effort to close all of the nation's remaining coal plants by 2030 and put the United States on track toward a 100% clean energy economy. 

Addressing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology commencement, Bloomberg laid out his plan, which in many ways bypasses the top national politicians even though, as he told MIT's class of 2019, "climate change is now first and foremost a political problem, not a scientific quandary or even a technological puzzle."

Bloomberg said he'd work with states and utilities to shutter "every last U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030." It's a goal he says is achievable -- "we're already more than halfway there," he said, touting the 289 coal-fired power plants shut down since 2011 through a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club.

He added that 51 have been closed since the 2016 election, and "despite all the bluster from the White House, as a matter of fact, since Trump got elected, the rate of closure has gone up."

The former New York City mayor, who considered joining the 2020 Democratic presidential field, slammed the candidates whose climate plans set a 2050 goal for mitigating the effects of climate change.

"Politicians keep making promises about climate change mitigation by the year 2050 -- hypocritically, after they're long gone, and no one can hold them accountable," Bloomberg observed. His own initiatives would take coal out of the climate equation 20 years earlier.

Though he didn't mention the former vice president by name, Joe Biden introduced his climate plan this week, and it features a goal of net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. 

Bloomberg is also working to stop construction of new gas plants. "By the time they are built, they'll be out of date because renewable will be cheaper," he said at the MIT address, adding that we "don't want to replace one fossil fuel with another." The push to end use of both natural gas and coal is the reason he's named his initiative "Beyond Carbon."

The billionaire Bloomberg's investment in the Beyond Carbon initiative marks the largest ever philanthropic effort to combat climate change, according to the mayor's foundation. The organization will bypass the federal government and instead seek to pass climate and clean energy policies, as well as back political candidates, at the state and local level.

"We're in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years. Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we," Bloomberg said in a statement. 

Bloomberg considered but ultimately passed on seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Instead, he vowed to point his vast wealth and political connections toward fighting climate change and defeating President Trump.

The initiative mirrors Bloomberg's work on gun control, which has focused on bolstering state and local efforts. The former mayor's financial contributions to Democratic candidates who backed stricter gun laws was also considered integral to the party's ability to retake the House in 2018.

Bloomberg's foundation has spent several years working with the Sierra Club to seek the closure of the nation's coal plants. Since 2011, about half of the 530 plants across the U.S. have been closed.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.