News | January 7, 2022

North Carolina order on climate, environmental justice is a step forward

The executive order announced today by Governor Cooper builds on goals originally established in Executive Order 80 to tackle climate change, and creates a much more comprehensive, economy-wide strategy inclusive of transportation to reduce emissions while advancing equity and promoting inclusion.

It also takes an important next step in a what can be a more comprehensive strategy to acknowledge and address the disproportionate burden of environmental harm on people of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities in North Carolina. 

“For years, we’ve been advocating that the Cooper administration expand its focus on climate change to include the transportation sector, which is quickly becoming the number one source for heat-trapping emissions in North Carolina,” said Mary Maclean Asbill, director of SELC’s North Carolina offices. “We welcome the governor taking this step and look forward to working with the administration to create a meaningful clean transportation plan that sets out wide-ranging strategies to reduce emissions, and to do so equitably.”

Adds Senior Attorney Kym Hunter, “The clean transportation plan will build on work already underway to tackle climate change at the North Carolina Department of Transportation put into place by previous agreements between the agency and SELC.”

Chandra Taylor-Sawyer, leader of SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative, underscored the importance of a cross-agency, pro-active approach to environmental justice. 

“This executive order helps clarify that the impact of environmental harm on overburdened North Carolinians is pervasive and the sources and solutions must be identified and addressed across our state agencies,” she said. “If done aggressively and intentionally, the order’s directives on investing federal and state funds in these communities can be transformative.”

In keeping with this bold vision for climate action and the urgency of the problem, SELC continues to urge Governor Cooper to push forward with its commitment to reduce emissions from the energy sector, including by completing rulemaking on joining the proven Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.