Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday renewed his commitment to a clean energy economy in North Carolina, announcing new emissions-reduction goals, a directive to move forward with the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and create economic opportunities statewide, especially in underserved communities.
On Friday, Cooper signed Executive Order No. 246, “North Carolina’s Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy,” at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, according to his social media.
The order updates the state’s economy-wide carbon reduction emissions goals to align with climate science, reduce pollution, create good jobs and protect communities, his office said. The goals in Friday’s order build on 2018’s Executive Order 80 that addresses climate change, the order states.
“Transforming North Carolina toward a clean energy and more equitable economy will provide good jobs and a healthy environment for generations of families across our state. To achieve our goals we must be clear, intentional and determined,” Cooper said in a statement.
“We’ve made monumental progress by developing a clean energy plan tailored to our state’s unique challenges and opportunities and passing into law required carbon reduction goals for utility providers,” he continued. “This order will assess our progress reducing climate pollution, and direct ways to curb environmental injustices, increase clean transportation options, and build more resilient communities in North Carolina.”
The order signed Friday increases the statewide carbon reduction emissions goals from 40% by 2025, which were set in Executive Order 80, to a 50% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. The order also sets as a goal achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, no later than 2050. The order directs the administration to find ways to reach this goal.
“These climate goals will deliver real environmental, economic and public health benefits for North Carolinians and this executive order includes additional steps to make sure those benefits reach every community in our state,” Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser said in a statement.
The order directs the administration to update the statewide greenhouse gas inventory to measure current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The current inventory released in January 2019 contains greenhouse gases emitted or removed by key source categories from 1990 to 2017 and projects emissions from 2018 to 2030 based on forecasted changes in fuel use, land use, population, historical trends, and other factors.
“This Executive Order is the next step in North Carolina’s continued commitment to a clean and more equitable energy future. Our state must continue to lead in the fight against climate change and environmental injustice while building an economy that works for everyone and the steps outlined in this order are critical to achieving those goals,” Dionne Delli-Gatti, North Carolina clean energy director.
There is also a call in the order to increase registered zero-emission vehicles from $80,000 by 2025, set in 2018’s executive order 80, to at least 1.25 million by 2030. A new goal in Friday’s order is for 50% of sales of new vehicles in the state to be zero-emission by 2030.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is directed to develop a North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan for decarbonizing the transportation sector through reductions in vehicle miles traveled, an increase in zero-emission cars, trucks and buses, and other strategies.
“This Executive Order ensures our state is preparing for and supporting emerging technologies,” said Transportation Secretary J. Eric Boyette. “We are committed to working with our state and local partners to develop a clean transportation plan – one that will benefit all North Carolinians.”
The order directs cabinet agencies to consider environmental justice when taking actions related to climate change, resilience and clean energy, as well as prioritize environmental justice, clean economy and climate priorities in budget decisions. Cabinet agencies are encouraged to work with advocates and stakeholders to identify additional executive actions to advance an equitable clean economy.
Each cabinet agency is to develop a public participation plan to improve communication and transparency in government decision-making, particularly with underserved communities. Cabinet agencies also have been directed to select an environmental justice lead to serve as the point person for environmental justice efforts.
“The environmental justice provisions that are included in the Executive Order go a long way toward ensuring that the state can achieve the exemplary public health equity goals. I am pleased that it will increase the likelihood that all North Carolinians are able to live in vibrant communities and pursue employment in workplaces free of environmental risks,” said Dr. James H. Johnson Jr., the DEQ Secretary’s Environmental Justice and Equity Board chair.
The North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council is to identify strategies to increase diversity in industries and occupations that address climate change in the state. The administration will work with the North Carolina Business Committee for Education and others to expand a clean energy youth apprenticeship programs with an emphasis on educational institutions that serve underrepresented communities.
Environmental Defense Fund’s North Carolina State Director David Kelly said in a statement Friday that the executive order is an important signal that the state is sharpening its focus on addressing climate change and creating a more equitable clean energy future.
“The measures in EO246 raise the ambition of the state’s climate goals to align with the latest science, take aim at curbing harmful pollution across the state’s transportation sector (the second-largest emitting sector behind power plants), and begins important work to directly address the needs of North Carolina communities historically overburdened by pollution,” he said. “For too long, conversations regarding equity and climate have been siloed, when in reality these issues deeply intersect as historically marginalized communities bear the disproportionate burden of pollution and are on the frontlines of increasingly damaging climate impacts. EO246 sets the stage to consider these issues in tandem, which is essential to making meaningful progress towards a more equitable, climate-safe future.”
Kelly concluded by saying, “Standing alongside our equity partners, we are eager to roll up our sleeves to help ensure that this executive order tangibly advances North Carolina toward a more equitable, cleaner future. We look forward to working with communities and the Cooper administration in the development of the plans outlined in EO246 while using existing tools to rapidly drive down carbon pollution across the transportation and electric-power sectors.”
Several representatives from the Southern Environmental Law Center provided statements, as well.
“For years, we’ve been advocating that the Cooper administration expand its focus on climate change to include the transportation sector, which is quickly becoming the number one source for heat-trapping emissions in North Carolina. We welcome the governor taking this step and look forward to working with the administration to create a meaningful clean transportation plan that sets out wide-ranging strategies to reduce emissions, and to do so equitably,” said Mary Maclean Asbill, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s North Carolina offices.
“The clean transportation plan will build on work already underway to tackle climate change at the North Carolina Department of Transportation put into place by previous agreements between the agency and SELC,” said Kym Hunter, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“This executive order helps clarify that the impact of environmental harm on overburdened North Carolinians is pervasive and the sources and solutions must be identified and addressed across our state agencies,” said Chandra Taylor-Sawyer, leader of SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative. “If done aggressively and intentionally, the order’s directives on investing federal and state funds in these communities can be transformative.”
SELC continues to urge Cooper to push forward with its commitment to reduce emissions from the energy sector, including by completing rulemaking on joining the proven Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, according to the release.
Electrification Coalition Senior Policy Manager Anne Blair said in a statement that “Executive Order 246 establishes that North Carolina will be a leader in the transition to a transportation system untethered from oil. And it sends yet another powerful signal to the market that the future of transportation is unquestionably electric.
“The Electrification Coalition applauds the Cooper Administration for taking action to expand its commitment to transportation electrification and bolster associated job opportunities in a way that proactively supports all North Carolina communities,” Blair said. “The goals laid out in EO 246 reflect the urgency with which we must address the economic, national security and public health challenges associated with our dependence on oil. We look forward to working with the administration on the implementation of these exciting new commitments.”