California lawmakers, scientists and educators have begun protesting President Trump’s decision on Thursday to pull the Unites States out of the Paris Climate Accord. Many University of California administrators, who have long encouraged sustainability as a pillar of the UC system, heavily criticized Trump’s decision to leave the Accord, a 2015 pact between 196 nations to combat climate change through reduced carbon emissions and adoption of sustainable energy.
UC President Janet Napolitano stated shortly after Trump’s announcement that she was “deeply disappointed” in his decision to withdraw, especially given UC’s decades-long commitment to sustainability.
“At UC, we will continue to work to meet our own ambitious climate targets, including our pledge to become carbon neutral in our operations by 2025,” Napolitano said in a statement. “Our scientists and researchers will continue to conduct research and develop technologies that will dramatically accelerate our ability to transition to clean and renewable energy sources.”
In response to Trump’s announcement, the following day, UC held a Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC) meeting at UC San Francisco. The GCLC, founded by President Napolitano in 2014, is a group of UC students, officials and experts tasked with guiding UC’s sustainability efforts.
On Friday, GCLC discussed UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, climate research and sustainable investments. At the meeting, members pledged to “support and work with California’s Governor, Congressional delegation and state legislators to ensure that California and the UC system stay at the forefront of combating global climate change,” according to a release.
California Governor Jerry Brown was similarly outspoken about his dissent with Trump’s “misguided and insane course of action,” announcing on Thursday and Friday the formation of a U.S. Climate Alliance as well as a climate partnership between California and China.
The proposed U.S. Climate Alliance, which currently includes California, New York and Washington state, is “committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change,” according to the office of Gov. Brown. Members hope to meet or exceed the terms of the Paris Climate Accord, which has met criticism in past years for not being strict enough.
The U.S. Climate Alliance intends to reduce U.S. emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels. The three states involved represent over 68 million Americans, or 20 percent of the country. The same states account for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
After announcing the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance, Gov. Brown departed for a trip to China, where he will host on Wednesday the Under2 Clean Energy Summit with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
The Under2 Coalition is an international pact between 170 jurisdictions on six continents, and is committed to limiting the global average temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius. Coalition members collectively comprise 16 percent of the global population and 37 percent of the global economy.
Gov. Brown hopes the trip will “strengthen California’s long-standing climate, clean energy and economic ties with the nation,” according to his office.
Many of California’s long-term sustainability goals parallel the UC’s. In Oct. 2015, Gov. Brown signed legislation committing California to generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Brown has also committed to reducing petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50 percent over the next 15 years.
In addition to its Carbon Neutrality Initiative, UC has been similarly aggressive in implementing sustainable policies. Since 2009, UC has reduced systemwide emissions by 15 percent despite increasing student enrollment to its currently level of nearly 240,000. Last year, UC made the largest solar purchase in the history of U.S. universities; this renewable power will eventually supply approximately 14 percent of UC’s total energy. Systemwide, UC campuses generate over 40 megawatts of renewable energy each year – enough to power over 10,000 homes. At UCI, innovations like the nation’s first all-electric bus fleet and solar-paneled parking structures have facilitated these efforts.
In another statement, Gov. Brown addressed the role of research and education in California’s response to the Paris Accord withdrawal.
“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”