(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Friday that increases North Carolina's clean energy goals.
Cooper said the order updates the state's climate change goals to align with current climate science, create jobs and protect vulnerable communities.
"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," Cooper said. "To achieve our goals we must be clear, intentional and determined."
The order directs the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. The state's previous goal was 40%. It also directs the state to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible or no later than 2050. The goals closer align with President Joe Biden's national goal for clean energy. Cooper's order calls for 50% new vehicle sales in North Carolina to be zero-emission by 2030 and 1.2 million electric vehicles to be registered in the state by then.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation must develop a plan under the order to decrease the number of carbon-producing cars on the roads and increase electric vehicles.
"This executive order ensures our state is preparing for and supporting emerging technologies," Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said. "We are committed to working with our state and local partners to develop a clean transportation plan – one that will benefit all North Carolinians."
Cooper said the order would ensure environmental justice and equity during the transition. He directed state agencies to consider environmental justice when making clean energy decisions and identify an "environmental justice lead" in their department. Each agency also must develop a "public participation plan" with a goal of inclusion, especially among underserved communities. Steps toward an equitable clean economy also must be included in agencies' budget decisions under Cooper's order.
The order builds on House Bill 951, which was signed into law by Cooper in October. It requires the North Carolina Utilities Commission to find the least expensive but reliable way to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Although the bill was a bipartisan compromise, some lawmakers still opposed the measure and the state's transition to clean energy.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said the measure is centered around hysteria over climate change and its goals to reduce carbon dioxide are "foolish and unjustifiable."
"The very idea of anthropogenic climate change is a farce and a fraud," Pittman said during debate over the clean energy bill. "Our climate runs through cycles of warming and cooling that are caused by our planet, varying relationship to the sun and sunspots quite independent of our presence and activity, or our absence."