Interview With Chuck Todd of MSNBC Meet the Press Daily

John Kerry
Secretary of State
UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg
Washington, DC
October 8, 2015

QUESTION: Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary Kerry, thanks for jointly stepping out. Let’s explain why we’re here. You guys are doing this climate change event featuring international mayors, so Mayor Bloomberg, let me start with you. This feels like an indictment on national governance that you need to work with mayors and city governments because maybe the international community on the national level can’t get it together on climate change. Is that what we’re saying?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: No, I don’t think that’s fair. I think most pollution comes from cities because that’s where most of the people live. And even if it comes from outside the cities, the energy that – the generation that causes the pollution is – the energy is used in the cities. So in the end, federal governments, state governments, the monies that – and the policies that they give and set get down to where the mayors are. In the end, the mayors are the ones that execute. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

QUESTION: And Secretary Kerry, you’re dealing on a nation-to-nation basis on trying to get climate. Is this city program a way of getting around the difficulty for us as a country to be signing on to climate pacts?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s a way of maximizing the possibilities of dealing rapidly with an urgent crisis. I mean, it’s a very simple reality that it’s going to take everybody. I mean, we can’t afford to just wait for one entity in government at one level of government to respond to this. And the mayors have proven through the years – I mean, this is where – this is an area where they have shown their willingness to take many, many steps. There are cities that have been way ahead of the Kyoto targets of a number of years ago because they had mayors who were proactive, who were creative, who put in place recycling or travel, good public transportation or building codes or – all kinds of ways in which mayors have an ability to be able to affect climate, make good choices about their local fleet of cars or different choices about their energy sources themselves to – which the municipality produces or buys. So there are all kinds of ways in which municipalities can be at the leading edge and have been at the leading edge of responding to climate change.

QUESTION: You used very urgent language. You’ve used very urgent language when it comes to climate. The world uses very urgent language when it comes to climate. Is the United States – is our debate on climate change, are we isolated in the world? Are we in a different place than the rest of the world?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, in all fairness, the President is standing up trying to do what he can. The Secretary has been going around trying to get other countries to do what we can. And in America we’ve brought down greenhouse gasses dramatically. How have we done it? We’ve closed 200 out of the 500 coal-fired power plants, which is what has made the most difference, but also individuals have painted the roofs of their houses white to use less energy, companies have put solar panels on their roofs to generate renewable stuff, automobile manufacturers make more efficient cars today because the public wants to buy more efficient cars. So while all of the craziness is going on in the debate, the fact of the matter is this country is the leader, I believe, of developed countries in reducing gasses. Could it be better? Sure, it could be a lot better. But the debate over whether climate change exists has changed from whether it exists to whether it’s man-made. You go to North Carolina and South Carolina right now; I don’t think you’d find very many people who say there isn’t something different.

QUESTION: And it’s funny. Should that matter? Because I’ve made this argument, this – I feel like there’s this huge fight about whether is it man-made or not. Well, everybody is acknowledging that the climate is changing, so then isn’t then the fight should be about what does it take to deal with a change in the climate – changing climate? Why should it matter whether it’s man-made or not?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, because if you’re going to solve a problem that’s not man-made, then what do you do about it? Those choices change dramatically when you begin to understand the science of how it’s happening. And once you land on the notion that human beings are contributing very significantly to this change, then you have a different set of options; i.e., what kind of energy are you going to use? Are you going to switch to gas from oil? Are you going to stop using coal without scrubbers, without other restraints, without sequestration? I mean, there are a whole series of choices that we face.

And that’s where – I mean, the simple answer to climate change, frankly, is energy policy. And if you make the right choices with respect to propulsion, vehicles, heating, all of these choices about energy, we can solve this problem. The question is: Will we make those choices fast enough?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: But no company, no CEO of a company is going to survive if that company has an environmental risk without addressing it, either by insurance policy – build a berm around your building, move the building. All these companies – American industry is realistic. They have to answer to their stockholders. They worry about lawsuits. They can’t recruit people to work in their companies unless they’re environmentally friendly. And they are doing things. So you can have them talking to Congress. It goes on and on and on. I don’t know that it even matters. Why even bother to cover it? Because in the end, the people that can do something are doing it.

QUESTION: Well, I was just going to say – I know you said – with all due respect for what Secretary Kerry and what the President’s doing, I feel like you’ve given up on Congress when it comes to climate, and you’ve decided the city way is the way to go.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: No, I think it’s clear that it is difficult. But what has to happen is the public has to say to the Congress, we will elect and re-elect people that will improve the public health and the environment. Forget about climate change way out. Those two things say I want my kids to have clean water, breathe clean air, not worry about storms and that sort of thing; and if you don’t help me, I’m not going to vote for you. And as soon as you change the dialogue to that, you’ll find Congress 100 percent in your pocket.

QUESTION: And Secretary Kerry, you’ve campaigned around this country as a politician. And you know when you go to Kentucky, that’s jobs. And you go to somebody somewhere else, and they say, “You’re going to raise my electric bill.” And this becomes an economic impact for people.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, but what people are now realizing is that it’s far more expensive not to deal with the problem. And that – we spent over $100 billion last year just responding to storms and to the increased drought problems and fires. And you run the list of the costs; it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re spending because we’re not responding to it. That’s number one. Number two, this is a job creator. Mike knows this. I know it. It is absolutely the single biggest job creator that is staring us in the face. Building --

QUESTION: There are people who are going to lose their jobs. There’s winners and losers. I mean, coal workers --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Yeah, but the winners are double or triple the size of the losers.

SECRETARY KERRY: The net result is positive. The net result to the economy is absolutely – there’s vast sums of money to be made. There are unbelievable jobs to be created – I mean, tending to building out the infrastructure for solar, for wind, for geothermal, for nuclear, for all of the alternatives to carbon-based society and economy. And it’s going to come at us. It’s going to happen. I mean, China just stood up with the President of the United States in the Rose Garden and announced they are going to introduce a cap and trade program in China. They are committing to reductions. We’ve increased our solar production in this country twentyfold. We’ve increased the electricity that comes from wind by threefold. We’re moving in that direction. And the faster we move and take the lead, the faster our economy will be the lead technology and the lead job creator.

QUESTION: And the last question on this topic. But Mayor, the emerging economies are the ones that are arguably the most polluted – the biggest polluters. Where – and as it comes --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: We’re going to take a look at the fires in Indonesia, who are going to take three years to put out. That is literally going to take three years to put out those fires, and that’s polluting the world. You have those problems. But somebody once said to me – it was a congressman in Seattle, and it was during a conference. And he said, “Mayor Bloomberg, we’re not going to stop polluting until the Chinese stop polluting.” So I, with my usual restraint, said, “Let me get this straight, congressman. You think we should continue to kill our people as long as they’re killing their people? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Needless to say, the audience loved it and he stormed out.

QUESTION: All right. I got a couple of individual questions for both of you. Secretary Kerry, let me start with you. It’s been reported – and I would like you to talk about this – that you have been advocating for two separate potential no-fly zones: one on the border in Syria, one on the border closer to Jordan; one near Turkey. Is that true? Are you advocating for some no-fly zones to sort of create some space both for refugees and for --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Chuck, I --

QUESTION: I know the President’s not necessarily for a no-fly zone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the President is in a – is in receive mode for any ideas that could strengthen the ability to tackle ISIL and to eliminate ISIL as rapidly as possible. Now, I’m not going to discuss whatever advice I might or might not give the President of the United States. That’s between me and the President. Suffice it to say --

QUESTION: What’s the case for a no-fly zone?

SECRETARY KERRY: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: What is the case for a no-fly zone that Turkey and Jordan are making?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, no – look, right now, we need – the first thing is we need to de-conflict and make sure that there are no accidents that come out of the engagement of Russia against ISIL. And we need to make sure they’re fighting ISIL and working on the political track for a settlement. Now, I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. He insisted that we will de-conflict as rapidly as possible. And he was surprised that their military had not responded to our inquiry. That’s --

QUESTION: Is Lavrov out of the loop?


QUESTION: Does Putin keep him out of the loop?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. Not at all.

QUESTION: Do you trust him?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. Lavrov was in the meeting that we had with President Putin and myself.

QUESTION: Do you trust him?

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s never an issue of trust with countries with whom we have differences. It’s a question of building out a series of steps that are verifiable, that you can measure, where you know what’s happening. And that’s what we’re trying to do, and this issue of making sure no accident happens when you have cruise missiles flying through the air, when you have jets from several nations flying in the same airspace.

They have indicated their – that they want to do that. They’ve also indicated they are deeply committed – they say – to the political track in order – they say there is no military solution overall to the problem of Syria. That has to be put to the test, Chuck. I don’t take that at face value. But we are putting ideas on the table. We are going to stay engaged. The President meanwhile is absolutely determined to continue doing precisely what we’re doing, and more, in order to tackle ISIL, in order to try to save Syria as a unified, secular country, and prevent another mass exodus to Europe.

And the President is deeply engaged right now with all of his security team in that effort.

QUESTION: So there could be no-fly zones, could be anything; but right now it’s receive mode.

SECRETARY KERRY: Right – well, it’s more than just receive mode. The President made several decisions, as you know, last week to augment the effort with respect to what we’re doing against ISIL. And he is taking what has worked – what works and can work --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- and obviously wants to change the dynamics as rapidly as they can be.

QUESTION: Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve been among the most prominent faces of the gun control movement. You’ve given a lot of money to this. You have said before you wanted to be an equalizing force of the NRA on this issue. It’s been a year. We’ve had more mass shootings. Support for gun control has actually gone down, not up. What do you make of the gun control debate?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: The truth of the matter is we’re making progress. Just the other day in Oregon there were two state senators that voted against sensible gun restrictions and sensible background checks. Both lost their seats. There was a recall attempt for four senators that voted for sanity. All of them survived. The state legislature voted to have background checks for gun show sales and for internet sales. That’s the 18th state in the country. And when you get enough, just as with I think gay marriage, when it becomes so prevalent at a state level that people really want this, Congress will go along or the courts will go along.

QUESTION: So in an odd way, in a similar way that you’re tackling climate. You’re basically seeing it as a city, county, state issue first, when it comes to guns?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, it – this is not a debate. This is trying to make progress. You make progress where you can. It’d be great if Congress passed – right now, the federal law requires background checks for gun show sales – national law. If they added into that sales and gun show sales, I’d love to see Congress do it. I think so would the President. But if that doesn’t happen in the meantime, we’ve got 18 states that have done it. There’s a 19th that’s very close. I think it’s going to get done soon. And you just keep plugging along.

And you guys worry – you, the press – Bloomberg Press too – you worry about sound bites. You worry about a handful of people that say no, but on the ground we are making progress. Are they still debate – still tragedies? Absolutely. We have more guns than people in America. We have people with psychiatric problems that can buy guns. We have people in places where they give students the right to carry a gun on campus, which is about as stupid a thing as anybody has ever come up with. But the bottom line is we are making progress.

And as the public stands up to the people who don’t want sensible gun background checks to keep guns out of the hands of minors, criminals, and people with psychiatric problems, we’re going to still have those, but we are making progress.

QUESTION: All right. Are you – can you – will you definitively rule out running for president in 2016?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Look, I am very flattered --

QUESTION: People talk about you. I can’t --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I’m very flattered.

QUESTION: This guy, too. There’s --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Ask John the question, too. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It gets thrown out there for both of you. I know that question; I know his answer. I haven’t heard yours in a while.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I’m very flattered that people would ask – you would ask. But the truth of the matter is I’m very happy doing two things: running my company and working with the United Nations and with the U.S. Government on climate change, and that’s what we’re here to talk about.

QUESTION: Shermanesque?


QUESTION: Are you going to be Shermanesque about this for 2016?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I don’t – Sherman? He was a general back in the Civil War. You all remember that?

QUESTION: Look at you without the Shermanesque. No Shermanesque.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: We’ve got to focus on climate change.

QUESTION: And Secretary Kerry, TPP. What do you say to your labor friends who are against this? Secretary Clinton now against this. Why are they wrong?

SECRETARY KERRY: This agreement puts into law for the first time labor standards that labor has always wanted. In fact, in Vietnam, they will now have a legal right to organize labor unions. Why labor would oppose that is, frankly, beyond me, number one. Number two, there are environmental standards incorporated in this agreement. And this raises the standards of doing business on 40 percent of the global marketplace. It is a very significant imprint of the United States high standards of doing business. It will create jobs. The net result for the United States will be to grow our economy and strengthen America’s position in the world.

And I believe that ultimately as people examine this and they realize what’s really there, there will be more and more people who will decide this agreement is good and it should be passed.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: And the Administration deserves a lot of credit for what they’ve gotten done here. And now we just got to have the Senate approve this. That’s --

QUESTION: It’s going to be an interesting road. It’s going to be a tough road.

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, it would hurt an awful lot of people in America in the future if we don’t.

QUESTION: Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary Kerry, thank you guys.

SECRETARY KERRY: Great to be with you. Thank you.

QUESTION: All right. Appreciate it.