Penn State backs open letter to support Paris climate agreement

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has signed an open letter to the international community that affirms the University’s support for efforts to follow through with targets outlined in the Paris Agreement to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.

The letter, We Are Still In, has so far been signed by about 180 colleges and universities — including Northwestern University, Michigan State University, Bucknell University and the University of Maryland — and 900 businesses, 125 city leaders and nine governors. The pledge was organized by Second Nature, a nonprofit organization that works with higher education institutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Penn State President Eric Barron joined with university presidents and chancellors, governors, mayors and business leaders around the country to endorse the letter after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the global climate agreement, which was approved by 195 countries in 2015.

“Today, as always, Penn State is committed to ensuring a sustainable future and to confronting the global challenges of climate change through our research, teaching, outreach and operational efforts across each of our campuses,” said Barron. “Our University’s commitment is strong, and I believe that by joining a coalition of other like-minded institutions and groups across various sectors, we collectively will have an even greater impact on the critical challenges facing our planet’s future.”

The open letter asserts that U.S. actors — in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, and businesses — will continue to work with the international community to reduce emissions and hold warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius without the support of the federal government.

“In the absence of leadership from Washington, D.C., states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, 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,” the pledge states.

Sustainability is a priority at Penn State, and, over the years, the University has embarked on successful efforts to reduce its electrical usage, cut its carbon footprint, implement a comprehensive University-wide recycling and composting waste management program, as well as support students, faculty and staff in the pursuit of innovative and interdisciplinary climate research.

In the Penn State Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2020, the University commits to creating comprehensive solutions to mitigate the dangers of climate change and address the challenges of providing safe and abundant water, clean and renewable energy sources, and plentiful and nutritious food.

“Sustainability — on our campuses and around the world — is a major focus and a key theme in our long-term plans and mission as an academic institution,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost at Penn State. “As a University that values teaching, learning, research and science, we feel that it’s our responsibility to explore innovations and solutions for stewarding the planet’s resources.”

University leaders who signed the pledge were joined by the mayors of Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, along with the governors of California, Massachusetts, New York and Washington. In addition, the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Mars Inc., and other companies have also committed to meeting the guidelines of the Paris Agreement.  

Following is the full text of the open letter:

We Are Still In

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.

Last Updated June 06, 2017