Climate Action Plan

UofL is committed to reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Carbon Commitment LogoIn 2008, UofL became a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which is now known simply as the Carbon Commitment. As a member of the Climate Leadership Network, the University of Louisville is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with the ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

After benchmarking our carbon footprint with our 2008 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Baseline Inventory, on September 15, 2010, UofL released its Climate Action Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for reducing our emissions down to net zero. A summary of the Plan and a link to the full document can be found here. The Sustainability Council coordinates UofL's Climate Action Planning as well as the reporting of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet this is no time to rest on our laurels. In fact, the most important finding of this inventory is that renewed investment will be required to make further progress and to meet our targets.

Given that the social cost of carbon is at least $40/ton of carbon emissions, UofL's emissions in 2017 were still responsible for no less than $7.56 million/year in damage to our planet and its people. It is not acceptable to continue externalizing these costs and imposing such a debt on the future generations for whom UofL ought to be a source of hope and flourishing.

UofL has made progress, but must reinvest if we are to achieve our first milestone goal of a 20% reduction in emissions from our 2008 baseline by 2020. In 2017, we stood at an 13.51% reduction from the 2008 baseline. UofL decreased emissions by 29,518 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year since 2008. According to the EPA's greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, this translates to:

  • Taking 6,321 cars off the road, or 72,348,039 miles of driving, or 3,321,481 gallons of gasoline burned;
  • 10,285 tons (or 1,471 garbage trucks) of waste recycled instead of landfilled;
  • Emission from 3,187 average U.S. homes’ annual energy use;
  • 161 rail cars worth of coal burned;
  • 987,885 incandescent lamps switched to LEDs; or the
  • Carbon sequestered by 34,768 acres of U.S. forests in one year (or 764,993 tree seedlings grown for 10 years).

UofL Greenhouse Gas Emissions SourcesWhile this reduction is important and laudable, this is no time for complacency. We must remain vigilant, committed, and willing to invest resources in order maintain our progress and to ensure a sustained effort toward our ultimate goal of climate neutrality by 2050. We must continue to invest in emissions reduction, to innovate solutions that work in our unique urban setting, and to prioritize efficiency, behavior change, transportation alternatives and renewable energy.

The most important steps that UofL needs to take in the near-term are:

  1. Reduce driving through a Transportation Demand Management Plan that invests in and incentivizes alternatives, caps parking, & transitions UofL from highly subsidized annual permits to market-rate, pay-per-use parking.
  2. Invest in large-scale renewable energy, behavior change, and energy efficiency measures beyond the scope of the existing performance contract.
  3. Explore carbon offsetting and sequestration solutions that would benefit our campus, community, and region.

UofL Greenhouse Gas Emissions per capitaThe reductions we’ve been able to achieve over the years have occurred in spite of the continued growth of our university in terms of budget, employees, students, land, and building space. We've documented reductions across the board in terms of emissions per student, per capita, per square foot of building space, and per dollar of operating budget.

UofL study: Heat, health risks worsen by 2050 (Courier-Journal, Nov. 14, 2016)
Perspectives on Climate Change
(UofL Arts & Sciences, Oct. 2015)
UofL’s emissions down
(UofL Today, Jan. 27, 2014)
Interview: UofL energy report (WHAS-11 ABC TV, Mar. 18, 2014)
UofL Reports Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions (WFPL, Jan. 24, 2014)
University of Louisville is on its way to carbon neutrality (Louisville Alternative Energy Examiner, January 31, 2012)

While the reductions to date are certainly worthy of note and should be celebrated, they still do not represent a steep enough decline to achieve our goal of climate neutrality by 2050. We must continue to innovate and strive for even greater reductions in years to come.

For earlier trends, see our:

Climate Action Plan

UofL's target goals for university-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from our 2008 benchmark estimate of 192,788 MT eCO2 are:

Goals

Timeframe

Reduction in net GHG emissions

Target maximum net GHG emissions

(MT CO2e)

Short Term

2010–2020

20%

154,230

Mid Term

2021–2030

40%

115,673

Long Term

2031–2050

100%

0

UofL's Path to Carbon Neutrality - Climate Action PlanOur plan for making progress toward climate neutrality is dynamic and multifaceted. We recognize that sustainability demands progress on multiple fronts and that lasting change cannot be achieved without coordinated efforts campus-wide. As such, we propose taking a variety of steps to lead UofL down a path toward climate neutrality with a focus on the following initiatives: green purchasing; energy conservation and efficiency; renewable energy; carbon sequestration; master planning; green building design; composting and horticultural practices; behavior change; recycling; transportation; food; and carbon offsets.

UofL employees & students are encouraged to offset emissions from university travel/business through a service such as Carbon Footprint Ltd, Native Energy, CarbonFund, or TerraPass.

A sample of projects from UofL's Climate Action Plan

Project

Estimated emissions reduction

(MT eCO2 per year)

Progress towards goal

(% reduction in GHG emissions from 2008 baseline)

20% renewable energy by 2020

22,284

11.5%

Implement phase 2 of energy savings performance contract on HSC & Shelby campuses

17,419

9%

Convert from coal to natural gas fuel at Belknap Steam & Chilled Water Plant

4,222

2.2%

Create dedicated bike lanes to connect campus to neighborhoods

3,283

1.7%

Increase fuel efficiency of the university fleet by 15%

136.3

0.7%

UofL's Climate Action Plan is designed to be a living document that we will continue to revisit and refine as we go through a four decade process of adaptive management on the road to climate neutrality. Engaging students, faculty, researchers, staff and the broader community in this process will be vital to its success and to our broader educational and research mission. This plan is a key element in our sustainability initiatives, and it involves many steps that will help us achieve our strategic goals as well as our climate commitment. It is also the right thing to do in a world of dwindling fossil fuel resources and worsening climate crisis.