Lehigh University has joined the growing list of colleges, cities, states, businesses and investors that have declared they will take steps to uphold the United States’ commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change.
This decision comes less than a week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement, alleging it imposed unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers.
Lehigh President John Simon signed “We Are Still In,” an open letter to the international community that has been signed by hundreds of cities, colleges and businesses across the country.
The presidents of Lafayette and Moravian colleges, as well as the mayors of Easton and Bethlehem, also signed the pledge.
Adopted in December 2015, the Paris agreement is the first global commitment to fight climate change. Its main aims are to strengthen both the global response to the threat of climate change as well as the ability of countries to deal with its impacts, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Trump’s refusal to sign made the U.S. one of three countries in the world to reject the agreement. Syria and Nicaragua are the other two.
“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,” the “We Are Still In” letter said.
Lehigh’s commitment to the agreement reflects its dedication to its own Climate Commitment, which was signed by former president Alice P. Gast in April 2009. It pledged that the university would “create institutional policies and procedures that manage the development and implementation of a university-wide plan that affirms our commitment to protect and improve the environment.”
Since signing the commitment, Lehigh has pursued a number of related initiatives, including the Campus Sustainability Plan 2020, which commits to building more efficient infrastructure, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting climate change and adaptation strategies.
The university is also actively supporting Bethlehem’s Climate Action Working Group, which aims to develop strategies to shrink the city’s carbon footprint.
“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,” the open letter said.