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Governor Cooper Signs Executive Order 246 Confirming North Carolina’s Transition to a Cleaner Energy Economy

Posted: March 10th, 2022

Authors: Thomas T. 

On January 7, 2022, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 246 (EO246), affirming North Carolina’s commitment to a cleaner energy economy and providing the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and generate economic opportunities across the state for underprivileged communities.  In the past, North Carolina has attempted to handle both climate and community equity as individual issues, and EO246 attempts to bridge the gap and handle both of these issues together.  The noteworthy aspects of EO246 are that it aims to update North Carolina’s economy-wide carbon reduction emissions goals to align with climate science, reduce pollution, create good jobs, and protect communities.  Speeding up the process of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, EO246 increases the statewide goal to a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050.  Governor Cooper’s administration plans to take initial steps towards these goals by updating a statewide greenhouse gas inventory to measure current levels of greenhouse gas emissions across the state as well as analyze potential pathways to achieve this net-zero reduction.

EO246 has shifted carbon reduction efforts toward the transportation sector.  EO246 directs North Carolina’s Climate Change Interagency Council to perform a “Deep Decarbonization Pathways Analysis” and provide a report to Governor Cooper within twelve months that details next steps for reducing state-wide emissions.  With the transportation industry being one of the pathways targeted for change, EO246 calls for a NC Clean Transportation Plan within 15 months, including an increase in registered zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to a minimum of 1,250,00 by 2030 and a goal for 50% of sales of new vehicles in North Carolina to be zero-emissions by 2030.  Though the introduction of more ZEVs seems like a logical transition across the United States, this aims to be an even bigger step toward reducing carbon emissions for North Carolina.  A recent Southern Alliance study revealed that though annual CO2 emissions from industrial sectors have declined or remained steady since 1980, North Carolina’s increase in population over the same time period is greater than 4 million people.  This increase alone has led to the transportation sector being the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the state.

Not only does EO246 provide a goal aimed toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but it also emphasizes environmental justice and equity for the state’s transition to a cleaner economy.  EO246 doesn’t stop at directing cabinet agencies to consider environmental justice when taking actions related to climate change, resilience, and clean energy when making decisions, but it also requires all state agencies to appoint an environmental justice advocate.  These individuals have established goals such as developing and implementing environmental justice participation plans across the state, increasing awareness among agency leadership and staff of the history and current impacts of environmental, economic, and racial injustice, and taking additional actions as appropriate to further the directives of EO246.  EO246 gives a more concrete plan for Cabinet agencies to prioritize environmental justice, clean economy and climate priorities in budget decisions and to engage advocates and stakeholders to identify new executive actions to advance an equitable clean economy.

Though EO246 looks to be groundbreaking with respect to progressing North Carolina to a cleaner and more equitable economy, it is not an anomaly for the state.  Since 2018, Governor Cooper has issued multiple executive orders related clean energy, climate change, and environmental justice including:

  • Executive Order No. 80: Affirmed North Carolina’s commitment to addressing climate change;
  • Executive Order No. 143: Established the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force to address long-term disparities in environmental justice areas;
  • Executive Order No. 218: Highlighted North Carolina’s commitment to offshore wind.

Policies and actions are not just happening at the Executive level.  In October 2021, North Carolina Legislature passed House Bill 951.  House Bill 951 requires Utilities Commissions to take reasonable steps to achieve a seventy percent reduction in emissions of CO2 from electric generating facilities owned or operated by electric public utilities from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and carbon neutrality by the year 2050.  In conclusion, EO246 provides new ways for North Carolina to reach its already established goal of achieving a cleaner energy economy and to increase environmental justice awareness and participation across the state.  We should expect to see significant progress toward these goals in the coming years.  Please contact Tom Timms for more information about how ALL4 can help you with your climate goals.


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