A coalition of prominent student organizations circulated a petition on Sunday calling on Yale to join the nearly 120 universities nationwide that have pledged to meet the greenhouse gas emission targets laid out in the Paris climate agreement.
The petition — spearheaded by Dwight Hall, the Yale College Council and the Yale College Democrats, among several other groups — is a response to President Donald Trump’s announcement on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the climate accord. As of Sunday afternoon, it has received 50 signatures from students and alumni.
“Yale’s decision to join this partnership would be consistent with your administration’s past statements highlighting our campus’ duty to promote climate action and knowledge,” states the petition, which is addressed to University President Peter Salovey. “A refusal to sign would squander an opportunity to harness Yale’s name to galvanize universities around the country and the world.”
On Friday, Yale contacted former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is helping coordinate an effort by cities, states and corporations to meet the United States’ obligations under the accord, to ask about joining the coalition of universities. But on Sunday, the University was still waiting to hear back from Bloomberg, Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor told the News.
“The problem is that no one has actually explained what this really means,” O’Connor said. “We certainly understand the sentiments of people wanting us to sign on, but I can say that what we already do at Yale is in alignment with the agreement. Our policy is pretty forward thinking, so we don’t want to do anything that’s going to limit us.”
The universities involved in the new climate pact — including Wesleyan, George Washington, Northeastern and Brandeis — have signed a pledge created by Second Nature, a nonprofit group that collaborates with universities to combat climate change.
In the pledge, the universities vow to “remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2°C and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.”
Yale already has a climate plan of its own — the University’s Sustainability Plan 2025 — that is aligned with the Paris agreement and aims to make campus carbon neutral by 2050. According to O’Connor, the University reduced its carbon emissions by 24 percent between 2005 and 2016.
Joining the climate pact “really wouldn’t be a change in anything Yale is doing,” said YCC President Matt Guido ’19. “It’s more a reaffirmation of our commitment to protecting the planet, our commitment to combatting climate change. Yale has an opportunity to serve as an example for a lot of peer institutions.”
The other groups that have signed the petition include Fossil Free Yale, the Yale Refugee Project, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, Project Bright and the Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund.
The organizers of the petition have reached out to other campus groups in an effort to add more names to that list, said Josh Hochman ’18, the president of the Dems.