Elizabeth Kiss is president of Agnes Scott College and Susan Kidd is executive director of the college’s Center for Sustainability. In this joint column, they explain why Agnes Scott has signed onto a national initiative, “We Are Still In,” in support of the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.
By Elizabeth Kiss and Susan Kidd
In December 2015 leaders from 197 nations reached unanimous agreement on the necessity of stabilizing the world’s climate, and signed a comprehensive commitment to fight climate change. The Paris Climate Accord demonstrated that when the stakes are high, the world’s nations can set aside their differences and come together. Our rapidly warming climate threatens all human beings and only collective action on a global scale can hold warming below 2°C and prevent severe disruption to our way of life.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord undermines this historic global coalition and weakens America’s influence in the world. But it is also out of step with what is already happening across the United States, including right here in Georgia.
That’s why an unprecedented coalition of leaders from state and local government, business and higher education have come together to renew our commitment to pursue ambitious climate goals and ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions and creating a low-carbon economy. The We Are Still In coalition includes nine states, 184 mayors and city leaders, 1441 businesses and investors and 292 college and university presidents – including mayors, businesses and colleges here in Georgia. Collectively, we represent 123 million Americans, 3.9 million enrolled students and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy.
At Agnes Scott, “We Are Still In” because our mission calls us to educate women to “think deeply, live honorably and engage the social and intellectual challenges of their time.” The most powerful way for us to prepare our graduates to navigate the challenges of climate change is to make our campuses living laboratories of sustainability.
That’s why Agnes Scott is a charter member of Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network, joining hundreds of other colleges and universities in taking bold and catalytic climate actions. We have:
•Reduced our emissions by 20 percent to date and set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037;
•Pioneered the use of renewable energy among non-profit institutions in Georgia, installing a quarter megawatt of solar power and two geothermal HVAC systems on our campus;
•Promoted energy efficiency through the college’s innovative Green Revolving Fund, which has raised $1 million from donors and invested these funds in energy efficiency projects, with savings revolved back into the fund to provide an ongoing investment fund for efficiency;
•Integrated themes of climate change, climate leadership and sustainable development within SUMMIT, the college’s signature experience which provides every student with a core curriculum focused on global learning and leadership development;
•Ensured that our sustainability programming incorporates the three pillars of equity, economics and the environment;
•Committed to partnering with our local community to foster resilience in the face of the threats North Georgia is experiencing related to climate change, such as extreme heat, intense storms, and heightened risk of wildfires and of mosquito-borne diseases.
At Agnes Scott, we believe it is imperative for the world to know that in the U.S. the leadership necessary to meet the Paris Climate Accord is found on college and university campuses, in city halls and state capitols, and in the offices of businesses and investors. All of us can answer the call of climate leadership, joining the global effort to hold warming below 2°C and accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit America’s security, prosperity, and health.