As one of the country’s most prominent educational and research institutions, and one which prides itself on being “in the service of humanity,” Princeton has no excuse for its entanglement with the fossil fuel industry, its incomplete climate action plan, and its inadequate relationships to the surrounding communities that sustain it. 


Princeton plans to reach zero campus emissions by 2046 through numerous laudable local sustainability goals. Although reaching a zero-emissions campus is an important piece of making Princeton a climate leader, the University must also think beyond localized sustainability and address the more far-reaching ways in which it can build climate justice beyond campus, with financial investments that foster sustainability and equity rather than fund climate chaos, and research partnerships that engage frontline communities rather than greenwash fossil fuel companies.


Currently, Princeton’s endowment continues to prop up the fossil fuel industry with $700 million dollars of its endowment. By doing so, the University helps perpetuate the industry that is the main impediment to serious action to address the climate crisis. Moreover, those same destructive companies pour money into University research. For instance, bp is currently the sole funder of Princeton’s well-reputed Carbon Mitigation Initiative. From 2017 to 2022, 11 fossil fuel companies spent over $26 million on Princeton research projects. These connections raise questions about possible conflicts of interest and provide further legitimacy to fossil fuel companies and their polluting ways. 


Full divestment and dissociation from the fossil fuel industry and its enablers, therefore, is necessary. At the same time, Princeton must look beyond these two actions, too, and use its position to serve the nation as a model of environmental justice. Ending fossil fuels at Princeton provides the University with new opportunities to invest in climate solutions on campus and beyond, as well as to build trusting relationships with its surrounding communities. 


We have known for years that Princeton must immediately cease its investments in and associations with the fossil fuel industry, but the University’s responsibilities do not end there. The University must also positively reinvest in climate solutions, in reparations for stolen Indigenous land, and in the wellbeing of local New Jersey communities. 


This commitment should not be seen as a burden, but rather as an opening for Princeton to shed its legacy as a big-oil-backed enabler of climate destruction, and instead take on the mantle of a true leader in the fight for environmental justice.


To become a university that models environmental justice, Princeton must also reform its Board of Trustees, which makes decisions behind closed doors, neglects student voices, and shirks transparency or accountability around many of its decisions. If the University wants to keep its promises and adhere to its mission, this must end.


Therefore, we demand that President Eisgruber and the Board of Trustees take the following steps to ensure that Princeton can model an institution that students can be proud to attend:


Divest from fossil fuels and Invest in global climate solutions and local environmental justice


Dissociate from big oil and its allies and Invite frontline perspectives


Decarbonize aggressively and comprehensively and Innovate climate solutions on campus and beyond


Democratize governance and Initiate student participation and build transparency  

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