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Higher Ed Supports COP21

By Sharon Chen
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Today is the first day of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). How has higher education been showing its support for strong international climate action?

Over two hundred university and college campuses, representing more than 3.3 million students, have signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge, pledging their support for strong international action on climate change. While this pledge urges world leaders to produce an ambitious agreement to take climate action, it is also a commitment to take local action, regardless of COP 21 outcomes. This means reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing campus sustainability, and incorporating environmental action into academic curriculum.

Even before signing on to the Climate Pledge, higher ed has been committed to increased sustainability. Many campuses are close to reaching carbon neutral goals, and for years universities and colleges have been incubators of green technology, and college campuses continue to pioneer sustainable policies. Whatever happens at COP 21, we are grateful that for higher ed’s dedication and leadership on climate action. 

Ahead of the Conference on Climate Change, More than 200 Colleges and Universities Sign the American Campus Act on Climate Pledge to Demonstrate Support for Strong International Climate Action

The White House Office of the Press Secretary | November 19, 2015

With less than two weeks until the President attends the Conference on Climate Change, the Administration is committed to building momentum and ensuring a variety of stakeholders are at the table to act on climate. As part of that effort, the White House today announced that more than 200 university and college campuses signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge to demonstrate their support for strong climate action by world leaders in Paris next month. These schools include historically black colleges and universities, religious institutions, women’s colleges, technical schools, community colleges, all schools in the Ivy League, and a variety of public and private universities located across more than 40 states.

The institutions signing today’s pledge are also already taking significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase campus sustainability and resilience, and incorporate environmental action into academic curriculum. More than 100 of the schools that signed the pledge have also set goals to become carbon neutral within the next few decades. In addition, Defend Our Future launched a new climate change campus campaign to empower more than 1 million young Americans to take decisive action on climate change. Along with the launch of the campaign, a bikeshare company based in Santa Monica, California called Cyclehop, has committed to expanding access to smart-bikes on college campuses across the country.

As part of today’s announcement, university presidents, students, and NGOs are participating in a White House Summit with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Managing Director Christy Goldfuss to highlight the important work being done to act on climate at universities, voice support for a strong agreement in Paris, and discuss future steps that leaders in higher education can take toward a low-carbon, sustainable future. McCarthy will also participate in a Facebook live event with YouTuber Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago, and host of the educational YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, to answer questions from students at over 140 campus watch parties across the nation.

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