For those unfamiliar, the agreement, consisting of 195 (now 194) countries, aims to: (a) [Hold] the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; (b) [Increase] the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; (c) [Make] finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. -Paris Climate Accord, Article 2.
In short, the pact is a plan for the global regulation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in a response to global warming. To be officially instituted in the year of 2020, the Paris agreement does in fact include financial stipulations that encourage the production of green technology as well as the support of the world’s developing and vulnerable countries; it was this point to which Trump aggressively continued to circle back during the address of his decision. Yet whether it be his businessman mentality or refusal to fact check before making any decisions Trump’s understanding of the accords seemed shallow, the nuances of the agreement lost to him.
During the address, he (less than gracefully) danced around several glaring oversimplifications, including but not limited to: • "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants," Trump proclaimed. "So, we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. • "Beyond the severe energy restrictions inflicted by the Paris accord," Trump said, "it includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund — nice name — which calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries all on top of America's existing and massive foreign aid payments." • "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." Though this was undoubtedly not Trump’s first questionable decision, nor do I believe it to be his last, it was after June 1st that the country seemed unified in its dissent with its president. Over two dozen of the nation’s top companies urged the president to remain in the agreement, members of the presidential council have stepped down, and other nations in the accord have emphasized their own commitment to the fight against global warming. It should then come as no surprise that college campuses across the nation, the genesis of sentiments such as #NotMyPresident, are equally as vocal in their opposition.
On June 5th, Brown University president Christina Paxson informed the community of her joining with other collegiate institutions in reaction to Trump’s decision. “The change in national policy, which is profoundly disappointing to so many, only deepens Brown’s commitment to advancing sustainability of life on our planet. As a university, we have taken important and substantive steps to do our part to advance climate solutions and to reduce the impact of climate change on the world’s population. I am writing to affirm that Brown remains deeply committed to these efforts.” Paxson goes onto to reference the countless ways in which Brown has been and will continued to be mindful and persistent in their stance on climate change. She mentions Brown’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction, which places sustainability as a central area of academic investment. Additionally, beginning in April of 2016, Brown also worked to establish a group dedicated to the mindful consideration of how the institutions business and investment practices “can be best aligned with our commitment to sustainability and, in particular, to reducing the threat of climate change.”
Yet most central to her address was the 2015 American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge. An agreement between 318 other institutions, the pledge was Paris accord of the American higher-education system. At the close of her statement, Paxson, along with the presidents of 14 other universities, reaffirms that commitment made 2 years ago. “As institutions of higher education,” the affirmation agreement reads, “we remain committed to a broad-based global agreement on climate change and will do our part to ensure the United States can meet its contribution.”