Building a Just Climate Future for North Carolina

Developed by the Center for American Progress, the report Building a Just Climate Future for North Carolina (report) provides state leadership in North Carolina with strategies to address the pressing public health and safety threats that stem from climate change. The authors recommend six actions for policymakers to take that -- alongside actions laid out in the state’s executive order (EO) 80 and EO 143, the state’s Clean Energy Plan, and Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan -- they argue will help the state address climate change while advancing conomic, racial, and environmental justice.

The report provides a brief overview of the existing legislation and reports regarding climate change in North Carolina. The first statewide assessment of current and future climate change impacts, “The North Carolina Climate Science Report” (NCCSR), warns that impacts fueled by climate change are highly likely to escalate over the coming decades. This report was mandated through EO 80. Additionally through EO 80, Governor Roy Cooper directed the development of the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as well as the statewide Clean Energy Plan. In the context of the added threat of the COVID19 pandemic and its disproportionate impacts on communities of color, Gov. Cooper additionally signed EO 143, which calls for actions that “equitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase community resilience to the impacts of climate change, and advance sustainable economic and infrastructure recovery efforts for low-income, minority and vulnerable communities.” This EO establishes the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force to create economic stability, eliminate health disparities, and achieve EJ in the state.

The report recommends that policymakers follow the actions laid out in both of these executive orders and their respective plans, but argue that more steps must be taken in order to build safe, healthy, and resilient communities and infrastructure and a pollution-free, just, and equitable clean energy economy:

  1. Create standards for building clean and resilient infrastructure and housing, including standards mandating new coastal developments take into consideration sea-level rise estimates through 2100, and mandating energy-efficient and zero-carbon guidelines for homes and rentals.
  2. Prioritize equitable housing policies and just and resilient community development, by working with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) to require that new, affordable housing is built to meet those resilient housing standards, and by appropriating additional funds for financing the construction of new safe and affordable housing units that are both energy efficient and resilient to climate change risks.
  3. Accelerate cleanup of toxic sites and flood mitigation, meaning that state leaders should strengthen and enforce safety requirements for toxic sites and increase funding and support for the DEQ’s Division of Waste Management. 
  4. Ensure equitable access to clean and affordable energy by prioritizing energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities, and by creating a statewide green energy bank that could invest in EJ communities.
  5. Support a just transition to clean energy by implementing an EE Apprenticeship Program, as recommended by the state’s Clean Energy Plan, to expand access to clean energy careers, and involving historically marginalized communities in the program design. 
  6. Foster inclusive and equitable public engagement by thoughtfully and intentionally engaging EJ leaders, members of low income communities, state-recognized tribes, and communities of color in the Clean Energy plan’s implementation.

Publication Date: September 2020

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Cathleen Kelly
  • Rita Cliffton

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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