2% - That's the amount of headway that the University of Montana has made towards reaching carbon neutrality.

Since the goal is complete neutrality by 2020 (according to a pledge signed by former UM President Royce Engstrom), that means that the UM will need to cut more than 12% of its carbon output each year for the next 8 years to succeed . . . a very unlikely scenario.

According to UM Sustainability Coordinator Cherie Peacock there are three major sources of carbon output at the university. Namely, the steam plant that heats the school and runs on natural gas, energy purchased from Northwest Energy, and travel to and from the school by students and faculty as well as transportation for sports teams and administrative meetings throughout the country.

Most of the counterbalance to the carbon output thus far has come in the form of energy efficiency programs. Due to the slow rate of return on these projects, however, carbon sequestration or investing in carbon offsets will likely be the only way that the UM can reach its goals in time.

Peacock was not sure at the expense the school has invested in reducing the carbon footprint, but estimated "in the millions."

Following is the official UM press release issued after the biannual update required by the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment:

UM’s second update was completed in January and showed a 2 percent drop in emissions between Fiscal Year 2010 and FY 2011. Emissions increased slightly in FY 2012, but were still lower than FY 2010 by 1.7 percent. These figures were not normalized for weather, growth and other factors. The total amount of carbon not emitted by UM in FY 2011 and FY 2012, compared to FY 2010, is equivalent to taking 458 vehicles off the road for a year.

“The reduction in UM’s carbon footprint is worth celebrating,” said Cherie Peacock, UM sustainability coordinator. “Even though we have a long way to go to become carbon neutral, this is a step in the right direction. The University consumed less electricity over the past two years, which is a result of energy efficiency measures, such as lighting upgrades, installed in existing buildings.”

In February 2007, then-UM President George Dennison became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. By signing the agreement, Dennison pledged to make UM more sustainable, with the ultimate goal of neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions on campus.

Cherie Peacock: