After two long weeks of negotiation and deliberation, leaders from 195 nations pushed aside their political differences, reaching an agreement to lower global greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the next century. The Paris Agreement, the first of its kind to impose greenhouse gas reductions to all signatory parties, was crafted under a “bottom-up” approach, having countries submit their individual reduction pledges in the form of INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. It is now up to countries, their governments, and their citizens to call for the appropriate action required to mitigate the most severe climate impacts from becoming a reality.
However, in order to address climate change on a global scale, we have to understand the impact of climate change on local and regional scales. Climate mitigation and adaptation techniques must be implemented on a community-by-community basis, as the impacts of climate change vary significantly between communities. Akin to the Paris Agreement’s bottom-up approach, climate action is most effective when it is developed by a driven community and addressed to a targeted audience.
With regards to climate action, the University of Maryland recently hosted the opening day of the Climate Action 2016 Forum, a three-day event focusing on the effective implementation of climate pledges set forth in Paris five months prior. In attendance were prominent heads of state, business representatives, and community leaders all working in conjunction to implement sustainable development goals. And yet, behind the closed doors of the high-level summit was a team of about two-dozen individuals, both undergraduate and graduate students from various backgrounds and fields of study, who all shared a strong passion and vision for a more sustainable future. These were the unsung heroes that met weekly; shaping a safe space that invited the entire public community to discuss the future of our climate.
This is the future of climate change that I envision. Not only acknowledging the existence of our changing climate, but creating open spaces for discussion and discourse among ourselves. This past semester, I have been fortunate to serve both the Residence Hall Association and Student Government Association, the two main governing bodies for all undergraduate students at the University of Maryland. Both of these organizations spearheaded dozens of sustainable projects, including a Green Room Certification Program for on-campus residence halls, as well as a promise from the University that they will have no future direct investments in the top two-hundred fossil fuel companies, two tremendous, grassroots successes.
The University of Maryland is moving forward, and it is up to all of us, to follow suit.