College and university presidents as well as system chancellors responded quickly to President Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. By Monday afternoon, about 180 had signed a pledge to remain committed to the goals laid out in the agreement, which was signed in 2015 by representatives of nearly 200 nations.
The higher-education leaders who signed are at both public and private institutions across the country. Among the signers of the pledge, called “We Are Still In,” were the presidents of Columbia, Northeastern, and Michigan State Universities; the presidents of Amherst, Oberlin, and Williams Colleges; and the chancellors of the City University of New York and the California State University system. They joined many business leaders, mayors, and governors in agreeing to continue to work to ensure the United States meets targets for emissions reduction. The former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is organizing the effort.
Second Nature, a nonprofit group that works with colleges and universities to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, helped coordinate the effort among higher-education institutions. College leaders had until Monday to add their signatures to the pledge, using a mechanism on Second Nature’s website.
Under the pledge, leaders in both the private and public sectors outside the federal government promise to engage with the international community to reduce the effects of global warming.
“In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, and businesses representing a sizable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals,” the pledge states.
College and university presidents who signed the commitment told The Chronicle on Friday that doing so would not change much for them, practically speaking, because they were already working hard to reduce their campuses’ emissions. But some said the Trump administration’s retreat from fighting climate change would galvanize local governments, businesses, and college campuses in their efforts.
Dozens of mayors of cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Little Rock, Ark., also signed, as did the leaders of businesses such Microsoft, Target, and Tesla. In addition, 211 mayors have signed a separate statement adopting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals for their cities, and several governors formed a bipartisan Governor’s Climate Alliance.