Penn State joins a grand coalition calling for action to meet goals of the #ParisAgreement

For months, many of us worried that Trump would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. So last week, when it became clear that he would, some of us despaired and some of us resolved to fight even harder. Last November, the organization Second Nature organized an effort for college and university presidents to back climate science and climate-related goals. A very similar call was reinitiated last week with the expressed purpose of backing the goals of the Paris Agreement (text below).

The call came through my email. After talking with some of my fellow Sustainability Institute staff, I forwarded it to our director with a request that he take it to President Barron. Our director laid out the landscape to enable President Barron to make a good decision. Here we are today, with Penn State joining “Northwestern University, Michigan State University, Bucknell University and the University of Maryland — and 900 businesses, 125 city leaders and nine governors” to back the goals of the Paris Agreement.

I see this as a sign that the people who work on climate change, on renewable energy, in sustainable agriculture, the people in operations who have to figure things out under really tight constraints at Penn State have made a difference. Five years ago, the words “climate change” weren’t in Penn State’s Sustainability Strategic Plan. But in the intervening years a lot of work has been done by a ton of people all of whose efforts can’t be summarized here. Now, confronting and dealing with climate change is part of the overall Strategic Plan 2016-2020 and in a signing statement of significance. While many of us might think it’s obvious that we should do this, reflect on this university’s historical and ongoing relationships with fossil fuel industries, especially coal, and you can see that these statements and policy choices aren’t without some economic and political risk. Of course, there are a lot of actions to come that will show how Penn State makes that commitment reality.

Right now, as someone who has worked through as many available channels as I could for the last several years making the ethical case for Penn State to take strong climate action, this is gratifying. Thank you President Barron.

* * *

We Are Still In

Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders 

Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders

We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, investors and businesses are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations — inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses — came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.

The Trump administration’s announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.

In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.

In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities and businesses representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2°C and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.


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