Climate Action on Campus and Beyond

Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the question of climate ambition turned into one of climate implementation. The Paris Agreement was a signal to the global community, setting off more actions and commitments in all sectors on climate. However, the looming question of how act on the decisions in the Paris Agreement remained.

The role of education was highlighted in the Paris Agreement for the first time, noting the importance of universities in enhancing public awareness, public participation, and knowledge sharing. In May, the University of Maryland (UMD) launched into climate action by co-hosting a multi-stakeholder summit, Climate Action 2016. In addition, UMD convened the Climate Action 2016 forum, which served as the public component to the summit to allow for academia as well as a diverse range of stakeholders to participate in the climate implementation agenda.

I'm fortunate to have witnessed environmental history in Paris at COP21; and being able to participate in the follow-up effort to address Post-Paris climate implementation in the Climate Action 2016 forum and summit. This past semester, much of my time was spent studying and working on climate implementation. Most importantly, I'm proud to have been able to represent and elevate the student/youth voice as part of a larger effort to mobilize multi-stakeholder climate action.

Both the forum and summit closing plenary sessions were comprised of a mix of sectors, including government, business, nonprofit, and student/youth representatives that provided some of the most inspirational remarks of Climate Action 2016. I was honored to serve as the moderator in the closing plenary session of the Climate Action 2016 forum at the University of Maryland, and to elevate other student leaders to speak on climate leadership in a conversation with advocacy and elected leaders to share their unique perspectives and methods of action. It was a perfect way to end the day, one that highlighted the future of climate action.

From left to right: Keya Chatterjee, Executive Director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, and 61st Governor of the State of Maryland Martin O'Malley, myself, and graduate and undergraduate student leaders.

The Climate Action 2016 summit occurred at a time when the global community was discussing how to implement the Paris Agreement. It convened global luminaries to discuss and advance the climate implementation agenda, just two weeks after the official signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement and eight months after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Now the conversation is firmly focused on the means of implementation and actions to pivot communities towards a more sustainable future for all.

The summit served an important function in order to scale-up climate ambition to address global goals from a multi-stakeholder approach. Leveraging coalitions to deliver on climate commitments is vital heading into COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. COP21 served as a catapult; however at COP22, issues such as finance, technology and capacity-building will be grappled with, all the while taking into account other issues such as human rights and gender equality in the face of climate change.

We are in a unique period of environmental awareness and action; our current state has been referred to as nearing the second wave of environmental action. Being involved in such an important step for climate action as a graduate student was a tremendous experience, especially organizing and promoting student, youth, and civil society engagement. Inclusion of the student/youth voice is essential as we continue to mobilize climate action efforts across all levels and sectors. UMD President Wallace Loh in his remarks as a co-host of Climate Action 2016, said it best: the millennial generation will be the first to feel the full impact of climate change...and they may also be the last to do anything about it.