NC governor expands emission goals, seeks environment equity

Governor Roy Cooper took executive action Friday to set tougher targets for reducing greenhouse gases and zero-emissions vehicles in North Carolina than he set in 2018.

The executive order, signed on the campus of North Carolina State University A&T, attempts to build on the governor’s environmental successes with the legislature in 2021. The clean energy system in his first state and a resulting plan developed in part with outside groups and advocates.

The order sets a statewide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to 2005 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero emissions no later than 2050. Cooper’s 2018 Clean Energy Order seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Global warming by 40% by 2025.

And while the 2018 order strives to have at least 80,000 registered electric and other zero-emissions vehicles by 2025, that demand is striving for 1.25 million of these registered vehicles by 2030. The sharp rise in this goal coincides with the automakers’ bid To shift away from automobile internal combustion engines. The goals do not have the power of state law to meet them.

“This is an important day for our country,” Cooper said at a news conference. “I am excited to see new green energy jobs…I realize there is a lot to do, but I think it is important to help create a framework for all of us to succeed.”

Cooper’s announcement also comes a month after Toyota said it would build North America’s first electric car battery plant in Randolph County, with the goal of creating more than 3,800 jobs.

Friday’s order also directs cabinet agencies to consider environmental justice challenges when making decisions about and responding to climate change, such as how they affect minority and poor populations, and to consider the “social cost” of emissions. Each agency will also designate someone for environmental sanitation responsibilities.

James Johnson, chair of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice and Equity Board, said in a press release.

The order directs Cooper’s Department of Transportation to develop a “Clean Transportation Plan” to reduce carbon emissions by reducing road miles, increasing zero-emission vehicles and developing other initiatives. The plan should be completed by the spring of 2023.

A state law Cooper signed in October directs state power plants to reduce carbon dioxide production by 70% from 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Run by Duke Energy, the state’s dominant utility, he is expected to retire early as a result.

Several environmental groups, including some who were lukewarm to the power plant law because they felt it wasn’t strong enough, lined up Friday to applaud the matter, particularly regarding environmental sanitation measures.

The order is “an important signal that North Carolina is increasing its focus on tackling climate change and creating a more equitable future for clean energy,” said David Kelly, director of the North Carolina Environmental Defense Fund.


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