In 2010, the University of Louisville set an ambitious environmental goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
The commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions started two years earlier, when then-President James Ramsey signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). That action set in motion steps to ensure UofL would, like other institutions of higher education, steadily work to eliminate its contribution to global warming.
Today, the university is close to meeting its first benchmark: a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The most recent annual report on GHG emissions shows that UofL’s net carbon emissions dropped more than 18 percent to 177,704 metric tons between 2008 and 2016. That is equivalent to taking more than 8,000 cars off the road or recycling almost 13,000 tons of waste.
“As part of the university’s 2010 Climate Action Plan, interim goals were set in place to keep us on track,” said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives, who issued the report. “UofL is now very close to meeting its 2020 goal of reducing net carbon emissions by 20 percent. Our students are making investments in their futures, and our university’s commitment to fighting climate change is tangible proof of our investment in the common future of our shared planet.”
Reductions in electricity use and fuel and paper consumption were responsible for most of the progress. Composting and planting/maintaining trees helped offset a small percentage of carbon emissions.
The 2006-2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory is an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the activities of more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff, as well as the operation of nearly 8.5 million square feet of buildings on all three campuses – Belknap, Health Sciences Center and Shelby.
UofL became part of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2008 and soon developed a comprehensive estimate of total greenhouse gas emissions resulting from operations. This 2008 baseline estimate is what the university uses to evaluate progress.
The university’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2010, is the roadmap the university uses to achieve net climate neutrality by 2050 with interim goals for emissions reductions along the way. The goal for 2020 is a 20-percent reduction (since 2008); the goal for 2030 is a 40-percent reduction.
Making more investments in renewable energy, alternative transportation and carbon sequestration, as well as increases in tree planting, are among some of the ways UofL will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Mog said.