Pomona President, Student Visit White House to Discuss Climate Action on Campuses

Last month, Tommy Erb PO ’18 and President David Oxtoby of Pomona College temporarily left the familiarity of Claremont for the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C. On Nov. 9, both Oxtoby and Erb visited the White House for a conference rallying support for climate change efforts.

Prior to the meeting in D.C., Oxtoby and more than three hundred other college and university presidents, including the presidents of Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College, signed the White House American Campus Act on Climate Change Pledge. This pledge signified a commitment from each campus to support initiatives related to climate change.

Oxtoby was invited to the White House to represent Pomona. In an email to TSL, Oxtoby wrote that the goal of this meeting was to connect with other college presidents and share their climate change efforts, such as Pomona’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Oxtoby hopes that such discussion can yield innovative sustainability plans that can spark change on campus.

One specific effort close to the hearts of students like Erb is advocating for a price on carbon. Erb, a lead organizer for the Claremont division of the national Know Tomorrow campaign, said that responsibility can be put on big businesses' carbon emissions and pollution by placing a price on carbon. According to Erb, a national tax on carbon would motivate businesses to be more responsible about their carbon emissions.

“As an atmospheric chemist and environmental scientist, I am convinced that the single most immediate step that should be taken on the issue of climate change is to put a price on carbon, ideally through a carbon tax,” wrote Oxtoby, who said he supports the Know Tomorrow campaign.

Oxtoby and Erb received separate invitations to the White House. Erb was invited as a student leader from Pomona as well as a representative for Know Tomorrow Claremont. According to Erb, the summit's goal was to bring together student leaders to observe and contribute to the discussion with college presidents, politicians and environmental activists. The summit was held about a week before the Paris climate talks, which bring together world leaders from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to discuss climate issues.

According to Erb, the summit was structured around 20-person round table discussions, with 50 to 60 people observing. Erb said that he spoke about carbon pricing whenever he had the opportunity to during the round table discussions. 

The visit to the White House was “reassuring, and gave another network to utilize of presidents and students for this campaign,” Erb said.

Also in attendance was Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Erb said that he was encouraged to find that McCarthy considered carbon pricing “politically feasible.”

At the Claremont Colleges, Erb and Know Tomorrow Claremont are in the process of obtaining signatures for their petition in support of carbon pricing. So far, this initiative has gained support from 5C presidents, clubs and students alike. The presidents of Pomona, Scripps College and Pitzer have signed the petition, and the organization will continue its efforts to rally support in the upcoming months.

According to Erb, by raising awareness about carbon pricing on college campuses, Know Tomorrow Claremont hopes to help push a carbon pricing proposal to the national level.

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