Higher Education, Endowments & The Paris Agreement: Summary of the IEN 2016 Strategic Planning Summit

Higher Education, Endowments & The Paris Agreement: Summary of the Intentional Endowments Network 2016 Strategic Planning Summit 

The historic Paris Agreement - agreed to during the December 2015 climate negotiations – represents a major turning point in the global effort to confront climate change. This agreement will have profound impacts on just about every aspect of our society – individuals, communities, technology, energy, business models, markets, and investors. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that limiting warming to 2°C represents a $12.1 trillion investment opportunity in new renewable electric power generation alone.

Leaders in higher education need to be ready. At a time when many are questioning the value and relevance of tertiary education, colleges and universities have an opportunity to reaffirm their critical role by leading on sustainability, and providing the education, research, and innovation needed for stable and productive societies. Specifically, colleges and universities need to educate young people to be full leaders in business, government and other sectors, advance their research on climate solutions and shift their endowment investments.

Higher education has tremendous social, intellectual, moral, and financial capital that it can leverage to play a crucial and unique role in ensuring the US meets its goals under the Paris Agreement. Higher education has the opportunity by playing a leading role in order to reaffirm its place as a pillar of a free and productive society. 

Higher education and endowments have the influence and expertise to become even stronger leaders in the transition to a low carbon economy and achievement of the Paris Agreement Goals. On December 5th, 2016, the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) hosted a strategic planning summit to explore projects focused on empowering higher education to lead the way in implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. This reports summarizes the key ideas and potential next steps that resulted from that meeting.