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5 End-of-Year Questions for Antha Williams on Protecting the Planet

From the announced retirement of the 367th coal plant in the U.S. to the launch of Beyond Petrochemicals, the Environment team at Bloomberg Philanthropies has accomplished a lot in 2022. To reflect on their success, discuss what inspires their work, and how they’ll carve a path forward in 2023, we welcome Antha Williams, who leads the Environment team.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ environment work is at the forefront of U.S. and global efforts to fight climate change and protect the planet, from accelerating the global clean energy transition and supporting local climate action, to helping unlock billions of dollars in sustainable finance and preserving ocean ecosystems.

Antha Williams touring petrochemical sites in the New Orleans area known as Cancer Alley with Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., Beyond Petrochemicals Campaign Chair and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, and local environmental activists.

1. What accomplishments from 2022 are you most proud of?

As the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, Mike Bloomberg has always promoted solutions that reduce emissions immediately. This year, we continued to help move major economies Beyond Coal, including the United States, Europe, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. 

I’m especially proud that in 2022 we expanded that work to support developing countries in their path to renewable energy. How growing economies in Africa and Asia meet their energy needs will be critical in the fight against climate change. With this year’s commitments, Bloomberg Philanthropies now supports efforts to increase access to clean, affordable energy in 32 countries, plus the European Union. We’re now working in 15 countries across Africa – and it was especially meaningful for Mike to announce that work standing alongside Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo at COP27 in Egypt.  

2. Who or what inspired or influenced your work this past year?

It’s been a challenging year of multiple crises in public health, climate, and the economy, but it has also shown the critical role philanthropy can play. In wealthy countries, philanthropic investments continued to spur progress, helping the U.S. win the largest-ever investments in the clean energy economy – the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act. It was also inspiring to see major new commitments between developing countries, philanthropies, national governments, and the private sector – like the launches of Just Energy Transition Partnerships in South Africa and Indonesia, and Energy Transition Plans in Nigeria and Ghana.

3. What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Great partnerships. Our expanded climate and ocean programs have brought us closer to amazing people like Damilola Ogunbiyi at Sustainable Energy for All, Ajay Mathur at the International Solar Alliance, Helen Mountford at ClimateWorks, and Enric Sala at Pristine Seas. Their work will be critical to combating climate change and protecting the planet, and our team will do everything we can to help ensure their success!

4. What are some trends or challenges you believe we’ll see in the year ahead?

Unfortunately, we’re continuing to see the devastating impacts of climate change around the world. Record-breaking weather events are happening more and more frequently. This year, thousands of people died in floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, and heatwaves and wildfires gripped the U.S. and China. This has increased the public’s awareness of the urgency of the issue and spurred more philanthropic support to combat climate change. Here in the U.S., the unprecedented government funding for the clean energy transition will be a major factor in our success in cutting emissions in half in the next eight years. I’ll feel great this time next year if we’ve helped cities across the U.S. access this funding and helped to show that clean energy investments can simultaneously cut pollution, improve lives, and create wealth.

5. What is a piece of media or culture you experienced this past year that you would recommend our readers check out in 2023?

I highly recommend The Outlaw Ocean Podcast, from longtime Bloomberg Philanthropies partner and award-winning journalist Ian Urbina. I also highly recommend reading or watching The Nature of Nature, by our partner and National Geographic Explorer Enric Sala. It’s a crash course on the delicate ecology that keeps this beautiful planet alive. For something a little different, Ducks is an incredible memoir by Katie Beaton, recalling her time as a young woman working in Canada’s oil fields and presented in the form of a graphic novel.