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U of L On Track To Meet Climate Goals

in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken | Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
Eleanor Hasken
in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Photo by Eleanor Hasken | Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

A new report from the University of Louisville shows the university is close to meeting some of the climate change goals it set in a 2010 plan.

The university has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions more than 18 percent between 2008 and 2016. U of L’s 2010 Climate Action Plan called for a 20 percent reduction by 2020, and Justin Mog, Assistant to the Provost for Sustainability Initiatives, said the school is on track to meet that goal.

“But we still have so far to go,” he said. “Our plan is to ramp it up in the following decade and double our reductions and get to a 40 percent reduction. How are we going to do that? We need to make investments in renewable energy, in alternative transportation and in carbon sequestration as well. We need to start thinking about tree planting, tree forestation, whether it’s on-campus or off.”

The school credits some of the reductions to a $50 million energy efficiency initiative. School engineers predict the improvements on all three of the university’s campuses will reduce U of L’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 46,000 tons, or the equivalent of removing 7,690 cars from the road. That in turn will save the university about $12,000 a day in energy costs.

“What we’re really making progress in is being more efficient in our on-campus use of electricity, and also what we use to heat and cool our buildings at our central steam and chill plants,” Mog said.

But he said there’s still lots of room for improvement with U of L’s carbon dioxide emissions from transportation. He said the increase in attractive student housing options near campus has helped reduce the number of students who commute from far away via car, but most staff and faculty still do.

The school has instituted several programs over the past few years to try to reduce the number of students, staff and faculty who drive alone in their cars to campus daily. U of L offers car-share, bike-share and ride-share programs, and will give anyone who gives up an on-campus parking pass for at least two years a $400 voucher to a local bicycle shop.

“It’s fantastic to offer those [programs], but if it’s still too cheap and convenient for people to drive, and if there’s no incentive for them to live closer to campus, well, guess what they’re going to do,” Mog said.

He said if those programs are "carrots," it may be time for more of a "stick" approach. He said the school should develop and implement a strategic, comprehensive plan to manage transportation, as well as take steps to disincentivize driving alone — like reducing available parking spaces, letting people sign up for parking permits on a day-by-day basis or raising the costs of parking.

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