Princeton University Expands Net Zero Goals, Introduces Disassociation Process to Advance Action on Climate Change
In line with its core truth-seeking mission and commitment to sustainability, Princeton University has put in place an administrative process to disassociate itself from companies engaged in climate disinformation campaigns or involved in segments of the thermal coal and tar sands from the fossil fuel industry. The University is also committed to reducing the overall negative impact on the climate of all direct and indirect endowments of the University.
Based on the analysis and expert commentary, Princeton will set a target date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the University’s endowment portfolio, including milestones for measure progress.
These steps, taken by the University’s Board of Trustees, are the result of a thoughtful process around the issue of fossil fuel decoupling that has included input from stakeholders in the campus community. This process resulted in a series of recommendations made to the board by the Resource Committee of the Princeton University Community Council (CPUC). Trustees used these recommendations as the basis for their deliberations, ultimately adopting a more aggressive set of policies rooted in Princeton’s history as a world leader in conservation research and climate science.
In order to implement these new policies, the board of directors authorized a number of administrative measures. First, the University will create an administrative process to determine the expert input needed to establish, implement and maintain workable decoupling criteria with fossil fuel companies participating in climate change disinformation campaigns and companies in the world. thermal coal and tar sands. segments of the fossil fuel industry – some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.
Second, Princeton will establish a subject matter expert committee to determine how to define, measure and assess the greenhouse gas impact of the University’s endowment. The committee will recommend ways to reduce the overall adverse climate impact of Princeton’s direct and indirect holdings, and set a target date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the University’s portfolio, including intermediate targets to measure progress.
The new implementation process will allow the University to take into account the greenhouse gas impact of all companies in its portfolio – not just fossil fuel companies – and drive change and increase investments in innovative technologies that hold the most promise for the environment.
The criteria for decoupling will be based on the current and future actions of companies in the fossil fuel sector, rather than on past actions. Companies involved in thermal coal and oil sands will only be exempt from unbundling if they can prove that they can meet a rigorous standard for greenhouse gas emissions.
Thermal coal, which is burned to produce steam and used to generate electricity, emits much more carbon dioxide when burned than other available fossil fuels. Oil from tar sands, derived from loose sands or sandstone, produces much higher emissions than conventional crude oil, including in its extraction and production process.
In 1987, the Trustees’ Declaration on Selective Disposal established the University’s long-standing policy that “for Princeton, surrender means dissociation” and that Princeton only undertakes a divestment when “the behavior of a business is in substantial contradiction to the core values of the University ”.
By making this decision, the University is divesting itself of its direct and indirect holdings in the company or entity in question, and it dissociates itself by re-evaluating purchases or gifts, partnerships and by facilitating the recruitment activities of employers. . However, unbundling allows for continued engagement of other types, including partnerships aimed at improving a company’s conduct or standards so that unbundling is no longer necessary.
Dissociation of any kind is considered a very important act taken on behalf of the University as an institution.
Guidelines were adopted by the Board of Directors in 1997 to assess dissociation requests against three criteria:
- Determine that there is considerable, thoughtful, and sustained interest on campus in the actions of one or more companies.
- Assuming sufficient campus interest is sufficient, assess whether these actions are in direct and serious contradiction to a core academic value.
- If the first two criteria are met, then determine if the University community can reach a consensus on how the University should react to the situation (in this case, divestment and dissociation). The response should seek means “which are genuinely affirmative, which at least offer some opportunity for constructive impact, which are consistent with the fundamental character of the University as an academic institution, and which may merit broad support from from the University ”.
The Resource Committee of CPUC, the body responsible for assessing issues related to the University’s endowment portfolio, including concerns related to investment responsibility and socially responsible investing, has found evidence for three.
In making its recommendations to the full board, the board finance committee has taken into account the work of the CPUC’s resource committee, which has spent over a year investigating the complex issues surrounding divestment. of the University and the decoupling of fossil fuel companies. His report was made public in early May.
The work of the CPUC Resource Committee was initiated in response to a petition submitted by Divest Princeton in February 2020 asking the University to opt out of all direct and indirect holdings of fossil fuel companies and to ban news. research and associative financial relations with fossil fuel companies.
Given the number of stakeholders interested in these matters, the CPUC Resource Committee has held numerous meetings with representatives from Divest Princeton, the Office of Sustainability, faculty, other higher education institutions, of the Finance Committee and many others.
Princeton is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions on its campus by 2046, the University’s 300th anniversary. The University’s sustainable development action plan, adopted by the University in April 2019, sets bold goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and outlines innovative strategies to involve all faculty, staff and students in creating a sustainable campus and future. Through this process, Princeton discovers and models best practices and innovations that can be scaled for campus, community, and the world.
Over the past half century, Princeton has conducted environmental research supporting the urgent need for climate action and delivering clean energy solutions.
Recently, researchers at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton and the High Meadows Environmental Institute released the Net-Zero America report, which charts – in detail – the scope and scale of the changes needed for the economy American national reaches the network. zero emissions. Although they identified a variety of possible energy mixes, each scenario involved massive investments in energy efficiency, extensive electrification in transport and buildings, energy storage and an unprecedented expansion of power generation. clean energy.