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De Blasio to Travel to Vatican to Address Climate Change, Income Inequality

By Jeff Mays | July 16, 2015 9:53am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio will address how the city is reducing emissions while lifting residents out of poverty.
Mayor Bill de Blasio will address how the city is reducing emissions while lifting residents out of poverty.
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Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office

NEW YORK CITY—Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a taxpayer-financed trip to Italy to speak at the Vatican next week about climate change and income inequality.

De Blasio will deliver a 15-minute speech Tuesday at a Vatican event titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of The Cities.” The mayor will focus on his OneNYC plan, which addresses environmental issues through the prism of inequality.

"The Pope is the leading voice on this earth in the fight against inequality," de Blasio said Thursday.

"He has, I think, now become the most powerful voice on why we have to address climate change," he continued. "And those two issues go together in many, many ways. The Pope has asked me to come, and other mayors to come to Rome and join that effort. And I cannot think of a more important mission."

Pope Francis wrote an encyclical which leaked to the public last month that is thought to be the first solely about environmental issues.

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” Francis wrote

The trip will be de Blasio's second to Italy since last summer when he took a family vacation there but also mixed in business by meeting with various mayors and officials during the eight-day trip.

City officials say de Blasio and two aides will travel coach to Italy. He will leave New York on Monday afternoon and depart Italy on Wednesday, arriving back in New York on the same day. The cost of the trip is $12,600.

Several other world leaders and mayors from the United States and around the globe will also attend.

The mayor has made income inequality the focus of his administration, addressing the issue in everything from his housing to police and transportation policies. The city has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

De Blasio turned the OneNYC plan, which traditionally addressed environmental and sustainability issues, into a focus on tackling income inequality. He pledged to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by 2025 and by 2030 reduce landfill waste 90 percent, which many feel is an environmental justice issue.

De Blasio has also sought to become a national voice on income inequality.

In April, de Blasio launched a group seeking to place income inequality on the national agenda for the 2016 presidential election.

The mayor and other left-leaning politicians and activists from around the country unveiled their 13-point plan, called "The Progressive Agenda," in Washington, D.C. in May. They called for an increase in the minimum wage, universal pre-K and ending tax loopholes for the wealthy.

As a coastal city, de Blasio said New York is also very much affected by climate change.

"The power of this Pope is that he is bringing all these strands together with tremendous eloquence and with a voice that is waking people up. And so to me what’s most exciting about this is to be in his presence and be in the presence of people answering his call to action," said de Blasio.

There has been criticism over de Blasio's travel since taking office 18 months ago because some feel it distracts from his duties running the city.

The mayor visited Paris after the terror attacks there and has also spoken about income inequality before the Labour Party in Manchester, England.

This year, de Blasio traveled to California, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa to talk about income inequality. He's been to Washington at least eight times.


De Blasio has said he has no choice but to travel to talk about income inequality because New York City needs changes in national policy to address the issue.

"We've got to walk and chew gum at the same time," de Blasio said in May.