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In Executive Order, Gov. Cooper Wants 40 Percent Reduction In Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Sea level change over time
Global Climate Change

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that directs the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025. It's a move that some other state and local governments have taken since President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

Cooper signed the order in the middle of the SAS Institute campus in Cary, where the tech company has a 12-acre solar farm.

Flanked by hundreds of photovoltaic cells, Cooper said recent deadly storms - like Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence just last month - are the products of climate change, and evidence that the state has to take drastic steps.

"You see, for North Carolina, this was the third so-called 500-year flooding event in 19 years, and it was the second in 23 months," Cooper said.

Cooper's order directs his cabinet agencies to integrate the 40 percent reduction goal into their programs. It calls for a boost in the number of zero emissions cars on the road to at least 80,000. And it tells the state Commerce Department to invest more in the clean energy industry.

Environmental groups have called the order bold, but is it realistic?

"It is a realistic goal, but I think it's going to take a lot of work by multiple parties," said Jennifer Weiss, a senior policy associate with the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. 

Weiss says the order lays out several different ways to reduce greenhouse gases, and it creates a climate change council that is supposed to get input from a wide range of sources like utilities, local governments and business owners.

"I think he's going to try to pull in as many stakeholders as he can to inform the process, and I think that's what's going to help us achieve the goal by 2025," she said. But it will likely require the legislature to get on board to implement any potential policy recommendations.

Weiss says Cooper is also trying to appeal to a wider audience - including perhaps climate change skeptics - by framing the order in economic terms.

"North Carolina is already the home of tens of thousands of jobs in renewable energy. We need more," Cooper said Monday.

Cooper's cabinet agencies have about a year to come up with various programs and initiatives to start implementing the order.

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