Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
In light of the recent announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, we write to let you know that Barnard has joined U.S., state and local governments, institutions of higher education, and business leaders by signing an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement. The letter, which declares that we will continue to support climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, has been signed by 9 governors, 125 city leaders, 183 colleges and universities, and more than 900 businesses and investors; the text can be found below. The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries in 2015, marks an unprecedented international commitment to limit global temperature rise.
As an institution of higher learning, it is crucial that we reaffirm our commitment to climate science and to combatting climate change. We see this commitment—both in terms of our scholarship and the actions we take on our own campus—as important, if not more important, than ever.
Barnard has an excellent record of taking action, not only in support of climate science but in becoming more sustainable. This past March, with input from the Barnard community, our Board of Trustees decided to divest our endowment from holdings in companies that deny climate science. Barnard is the first institution of higher education to pursue this divestment approach which aligns our investments with our core values as an academic institution. We are in the process of developing plans to implement this approach in the coming months.
Over the next year, we will increase efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. We will hold a series of community events to develop a shared climate action plan to guide our efforts going forward. This conversation will engage our entire community around questions of how to build on our already robust and varied operational and curricular sustainability initiatives.
Barnard participates in a number of regional energy challenges, such as Governor Cuomo’s REV Campus Challenge and Mayor de Blasio’s #OneNYC program (a renewal of Mayor Bloomberg’s 10-year PlaNYC2030 challenge, which Barnard completed in only six years). These programs challenge colleges and other large institutions to reduce their carbon footprints and engage their communities in sustainability efforts.
In addition, the College has an ongoing commitment to convert all of its incandescent bulbs to compact florescent and has converted most lamps to LED in commonly used spaces. Moreover, Barnard recently converted to 50 percent wind energy to power our campus. All of our bathrooms and kitchens have low-flow showers and toilets, and there are water refilling stations throughout campus to encourage the reduction of bottled water. A recent campaign encourages the use of stairs, in lieu of elevators, as an energy-saving measure. The new Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center is set to achieve a LEED Silver rating upon completion in 2018.
Next fall, Barnard will pilot a program to reduce landfill waste—making recycling easier—and will collect organic waste, fostering more mindful disposal practices. The College recently expanded its reuse initiative, with the student group ROOTS offering a thrift shop-style collection of gently used, dormitory-approved household goods for sale. And this spring, the College began offering drop-off points in every dorm for clothing, shoes, and housewares that will later be offered at a swap-meet event. The College actively reuses all furniture and office supplies to encourage a thoughtful culture for sustainability.
This is the sort of creative and responsive thinking that will be required by all of us as we continue to take on the challenge of protecting our environment. Please know that Barnard is fully committed to these efforts and to taking a leading role in supporting climate science and sustainable practices.
Interim President and COO
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.