Report by Duke and UNC Shows Cost-Effective Approach to Reducing Carbon

Action Pending Before N.C. Commission as N.C. Communities Feel Impacts of Climate Change

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—According to a report released today by Duke University and the University of North Carolina, setting a declining cap on carbon pollution from power plants and joining a cooperative effort with other states would be a highly cost-effective approach to help North Carolina meet state carbon-reduction goals. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality commissioned the report, which evaluates several carbon policy options, based on a recommendation in the state Clean Energy Plan. Clean Air Carolina and the North Carolina Coastal Federation, represented by SELC, recently filed a request with the N.C. Environmental Management Commission asking the commission to adopt a rule limiting carbon pollution from power plants and participating in the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

"They may be rivals on the basketball court, but this report shows that even during March Madness, there is one thing that Duke and UNC can agree on: limiting carbon pollution from power plants and joining other states in a cooperative effort is an effective—and cost-effective—way to reduce carbon pollution from power plants in North Carolina," said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “It's a slam dunk.”

The state Clean Energy Plan sets a goal of reducing power sector carbon emissions 70% from 2005 levels by 2030, reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The analysis prepared for Duke and UNC by the consulting firm ICF International showed that a scenario almost identical to the carbon-reduction program proposed will bring the state very close to this goal on its own.  The results show that the program will reduce the heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions that cause harmful climate change—by approximately 10 million metric tons in the first year, primarily by reducing operation of aging coal-burning power plants.  It will achieve these crucial reductions at very low cost—increasing system-wide electricity costs by less than 1%.

Action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is urgently needed as North Carolinians increasingly feel the impacts of climate change from flooding, slower storms that drop more rain, rising sea levels that are harming coastal areas, and warmer and more humid days and nights. Scientists warn of more dire consequences for North Carolina’s economy, environment and people—including to people’s health—if no action is taken or action is delayed.

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For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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