South Carolina Businesses, Universities, Cities Commit to Paris Agreement

On June 1, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. With Trump’s withdrawal, the United States joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only U.N. member nations to reject the agreement. Signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement set their own benchmarks for climate change mitigation to keep temperature change under 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

The city of Charleston and the College of Charleston remain especially at risk for damage induced by climate-change. Of particular concern is the threat of sea-level rise. 50 years ago, Charleston averaged four days of tidal flooding. In 2015, Charleston averaged 38 days. In 30 years, it is expected that Charleston will experience flooding at least half of the year. The city of Charleston reports that flooding will cost the city $1.5 billion in the next 50 years.

In response to the withdrawal, the governors of 13 states formed the US Climate Alliance, committing their states to upholding the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The members of the Climate Alliance represent 37.68 percent of the US population and 32.38 percent of the US GDP. South Carolina Governor McMaster, an early supporter of President Trump, applauded the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, telling the Post and Courier, “I’m with Trump. We’ll be fine.”

Another group of businesses, mayors, colleges and universities signed an open letter pledging their intent to work together to reduce their emissions and remain committed to the objectives of the Paris Agreement. “In the absence of leadership from Washington,” the letter reads, “states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.” The letter is signed by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, as well as the Mayors of Columbia and Anderson.  Two local Charleston companies, Solar Current and Palmetto Clean Energy, as well as the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce are signatories to the statement. The Presidents of the University of South Carolina and Furman University have signed the statement as well.

Despite the risks to the City and College, the College of Charleston has not signed the pledge. “We are aware of the fact that climate change is a real and present danger to us”, said Brian McGee, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs. However, the College does not want to become “engaged with political issues outside of our lane,” choosing to leave the discussion surrounding climate change to the expertise of College of Charleston faculty currently involved in climate change research.

In 2008 the College of Charleston signed a similar commitment under President Benson–the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Under the ACUPCC, the College of Charleston committed to reduce emissions and integrate sustainability into the curriculum.

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Authored by: Brian Elmore

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