Brown joins leading research universities’ pledge for climate action

President Paxson is among 12 university presidents who issued a joint commitment reaffirming progress on climate change.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina Paxson announced in an email June 5 to the campus community that she joined 11 other presidents of the country’s leading research universities in affirming a commitment to progress on climate change. The email and the joint university statement appear below.

President Paxson’s Letter to the Brown Community (June 5, 2017)

Members of the Brown Community,

The White House last week announced its decision to remove the United States from the December 2015 Paris Agreement. The international accord on climate change aims to limit the rise in global warming to no more than 2 degrees centigrade through worldwide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

Today, I have signed the joint statement below with the leadership of other major research institutions declaring our alignment with the Paris Agreement and reaffirming our commitment to action to confront global warming.

At Brown, our actions take a number of forms. Most relevant to the Paris accord, Brown approved in 2008 ambitious goals for reducing our carbon footprint, including a pledge to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent from 2007 levels by the year 2020. Our emissions have declined by 23 percent, despite substantial growth in the square footage of campus buildings. We continue to make new investments in our energy systems to meet our goal and, once attained, set a new goal for the next decade.

Our commitment also is deeply integrated into education and research at Brown. Brown’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction, highlights “Sustaining Life on Earth” as a central area of academic investment. We are dedicated to producing the innovative research that is needed to transform energy systems, conserve fragile ecosystems, and protect humans from the many adverse consequences of climate change. And we will continue to use education as a powerful tool to spread this knowledge.

Finally, as announced in April, we will establish a working group this fall to consider how Brown’s business and investment practices can be best aligned with our commitment to sustainability and, in particular, to reducing the threat of climate change.

Brown will model best practices through our own conservation efforts. We will generate the data and evidence that supports policy change. We will produce the research and discovery that leads to cleaner energy, reduced emissions and better human health and wellbeing. And we will educate students who go on to influence the efforts of all sectors of society in the future. As always, our work will be grounded in scientific evidence and motivated by our drive to serve the community, the nation and the world.

Christina Paxson
President, Brown University

Affirmation of Leading Research Universities' Commitment to Progress on Climate Change (June 5, 2017)

In 2015, we were proud to be among 318 institutions of higher education in signing the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge, affirming our commitment to accelerate the global transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices on our campuses. 

Today we reaffirm that commitment, which is consistent with the Paris Agreement and recognizes the concerted action that is needed at every level to slow, and ultimately prevent, the rise in the global average temperature and to facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy.  Universities have a critical role to play in reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, continuing to advance evidence-based understanding of the causes and effects of climate change on the environment, the economy and public health, and developing solutions.

The scientific consensus is clear that the climate is changing largely due to human activity, that the consequences of climate change are accelerating, and that the imperative of a low carbon future is increasingly urgent.  As institutions of higher education, 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.

Christina Paxson, President, Brown University
Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University
Martha E. Pollack, President, Cornell University
Philip J. Hanlon, President, Dartmouth College
Richard H. Brodhead, President, Duke University
John J. DeGioia, President, Georgetown University
Drew Gilpin Faust, President, Harvard University
Ronald J. Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University
L. Rafael Reif, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President, Stanford University
Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania
Peter Salovey, President, Yale University

For Reference: American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge (Fall 2015)

“As institutions of higher education, we applaud the progress already made to promote clean energy and climate action as we seek a comprehensive, ambitious agreement at the upcoming United Nations Climate Negotiations in Paris. We recognize the urgent need to act now to avoid irreversible costs to our global community’s economic prosperity and public health and are optimistic that world leaders will reach an agreement to secure a transition to a low carbon future. Today our school pledges to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices across our campus.”