On January 7, Governor Roy Cooper took a major step to address long-standing environmental inequities in historically disadvantaged communities with the announcement of Executive Order No. 246 on Climate Change and Environmental Justice to ensure that the state achieves its public health equity goals.
Executive Order 246 underscores the importance of environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy. “This order will assess our progress in reducing climate pollution, and direct ways to curb environmental injustices, increase clean transportation options, and build more resilient communities in North Carolina,” said Gov. Cooper.
Similar to the climate goals set by the Biden administration, the Cooper administration is affirming North Carolina’s commitment to a clean energy economy by pushing for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030. To meet these goals, Executive Order 246 directs the administration to update a statewide greenhouse gas inventory to measure current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as analyze potential pathways for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The order also directs the administration to identify and implement strategies to increase diversity in industries and occupations that are critical to addressing climate change and work to expand clean energy youth apprenticeship programs for careers in the clean energy sector of the economy. In addition, state agencies are instructed to not only consider input from residents when making economic development decisions but to also direct financial resources to environmentally impacted communities.
As transportation quickly becomes the number one source for heat-trapping emissions in the state, environmental groups have pressed the administration to expand its climate change focus to include the transportation sector. The Executive Order also addresses that issue, as well.
It directs the North Carolina Department of Transportation to develop a meaningful North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan that sets out wide-ranging strategies to reduce emissions in an equitable way by decarbonizing the transportation sector through reductions in vehicle miles traveled and an increase in zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses, and other strategies.
When combined with Executive Orders 80 (North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy) and 143 (Addressing the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color), Executive Order 246 will make North Carolina less dependent on fossil fuels, bring new high paying jobs to the state and help remedy disproportionate environmental, economic, and health impacts on people of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities.
“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,” said David Kelly, North Carolina State Director, Environmental Defense Fund. “EO246 sets the stage to consider these issues in tandem, which is essential to making meaningful progress towards a more equitable, climate-safe future.”