Office of Public Affairs

USM joins national commitment to global climate action on fifth anniversary of Paris Agreement

aerial image of USM's Portland campus

To mark the five-year anniversary of international governments signing on to the Paris Agreement, the University of Southern Maine is joining more than 1,000 businesses, organizations, municipalities and universities nationwide in committing to a national mobilization for a clean energy economy and refocusing their own operations in pursuit of climate action.

The “America Is All In” statement, to which USM is a signatory, will be delivered to the incoming Biden–Harris administration, as well as to United Nations officials and global heads of state at the Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the United Kingdom on December 12, 2020.  

“As we look to recover from the dual public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also look to the looming threat of the climate crisis,” USM President Glenn Cummings said. “This is a moment to foster innovation, increase national security, and protect the health and well-being of present and future generations. In our commitment to addressing the climate crisis, USM welcomes the opportunity to do our part to achieve these goals and advocate for bold climate action across the U.S.” 

Cummings said USM’s climate action work and commitments also align with state initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions and increase the use of clean energy options.

“Like Governor Mills, we welcome the strategies and goals outlined in the Maine Won’t Wait climate action plan,” he said. “We look forward to implementing these vital recommendations put forth by the Maine Climate Action Council in service to meeting the state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.”

USM’s commitment to climate action and sustainability spans several ongoing initiatives. With sustainability as a core component of its campus master plan, USM will break ground in spring 2021 on two landmark buildings, the Portland Commons residence hall and the Career & Student Success Center, which will feature state-of-the-art “green” designs.

USM’s Portland Commons residence hall will be the largest Passive House college residence hall in New England and one of the top-five largest Passive House residence halls in the nation.

Passive House is one of the strictest green building standards in the world, prioritizing energy reductions in building operations and high indoor air quality. Through Passive House certification, USM’s Portland Commons residence hall will feature significant energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, exceeding building code requirements by at least 50 percent.  

Through LEED certification, USM's new Career & Student Success Center will showcase the use of locally sourced materials, recycled materials, utility conservation, solar power and high indoor air quality.

USM also recently published a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management plan — one of the most ambitious in the Greater Portland area — to reduce the university’s transportation-related emissions by 20 percent by the year 2025. Every USM student and staff and faculty member can access the Greater Portland METRO transportation service for free, and 25 percent of commuters carpool, take the bus, bike or walk to teach, learn and work at the Portland Campus.  

Through these and other initiatives, USM’s Office of Sustainability’s Strategic Plan has charted a course to carbon neutrality by the year 2040 through energy efficiency, use of renewable energy and alternative transportation initiatives.

The “America Is All In” declaration is organized by We Are Still In, a national coalition that supports climate action and efforts to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. With more than 3,900 organizations and institutions across all sectors of the U.S, these signatories represent nearly two-thirds of the economy and more than half of the country’s emissions.  

“December 12 is more than an anniversary of an agreement, it represents a critical turning point for the future of U.S. and global climate action,” said Elan Strait, director of U.S. Climate Campaigns at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Nationally, we have stumbled in our leadership on climate action. But We Are Still In shows that there is a commitment to change in the United States that never faltered. Today's statement from the University of Southern Maine and hundreds of businesses, organizations, municipalities and universities across the country sends a clear message that moving forward, we need a unified national response to the climate crisis.”  

To date, the new statement has been signed by many cities nationwide, including St. Louis, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., as well as Fortune 100 businesses such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and McDonald’s.  

“There’s never been a more important time for us to come together and accelerate the progress we’ve made to address the climate crisis than now,” said Katie Fallon, Chief Global Impact Officer at McDonald’s. “At McDonald’s, we believe we have a special obligation to help the nearly 40,000 communities we serve build a more resilient and equitable future. This global pandemic is a needed wake-up call that there is still much work to be done, and that we can only succeed if we innovate and collaborate together — that is why we are still in.”