The University of Louisville is reporting early success reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In its climate action plan, the University of Louisville set a goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Now, the university has already met that goal…reducing emissions across all three of its campuses 27 percent since 2006.

Some of those reductions come from big moves, like eliminating coal burning at the school’s Belknap campus in favor of natural gas power. Some are due to energy efficiency measures, like installing timers and motion sensors on lights. Still others are due to incentives that encourage students to carpool, or to forgo commuting by car altogether. U of L now also has a program that gives students up to $400 to buy a new bicycle in exchange for foregoing a parking pas for at least two years.

U of L sustainability coordinator Justin Mog says he’s excited by the progress, but warns that there’s still a lot more work to be done.

“The biggest piece that remains a struggle for us are those individual decisions about travel,” he says. “ And whether it’s air travel or local commuting, we need to get a handle on how we can better encourage people to think about alternatives, or if they, do have to say, fly to a conference or a study abroad, to consider doing a carbon offset.”

The university has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050…and Mog says even with the better-than-expected progress, that’ll still be a tough goal to meet.

“These trends are good, but the curves are not steep enough to get us to our goal of climate neutrality, even by 2050,” he says. “So we really need to up our game and learn the important lessons we’ve learned along the way, and incorporate them into how we make decisions in the future.”

Mog says the university could still make significant progress to reduce emissions from refrigerants and transportation sources. About half of U of L’s carbon dioxide emissions come from purchased electricity; another 12 percent comes from heating and cooling, and 10 percent is from student commuting.