New Report: North Carolina Off Track for Reaching its Own Climate Goals

North Carolina needs to swiftly enact climate, clean energy policies to rapidly drive down climate pollution and close the state’s emissions gap.

March 28, 2022
Chandler Green, (803) 981-2211,

(RALEIGH, NC. – March 28, 2022) A new report from Environmental Defense Fund, which analyzed emissions data from the Rhodium Group U.S. Climate Service, finds that North Carolina will fall short of its 2025 and 2030 climate targets without additional policies to curb emissions.

EDF’s analysis finds that under state policies in place as of May 2021, North Carolina is projected to achieve a 27% reduction in economy-wide emissions by 2025, missing its 40% reduction target set by Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80. Assuming that the state achieves the 70% power-sector pollution reduction goal set by House Bill 951 without delays, North Carolina could achieve a 28% to 38% reduction in economy-wide emissions by 2030 – well short of its 50% target set by Executive Order 246. These findings align with the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s recent greenhouse gas inventory, demonstrating that North Carolina will need to take swift action to meet its critical climate goals.

“Governor Cooper has set the stage for strong climate action, but North Carolina must turn those pledges into policy that meets its critical pollution reduction goals,” said Michelle Allen, Project Manager for North Carolina Political Affairs at EDF. “This report makes clear that North Carolina needs to quickly implement solutions that deliver for North Carolina communities. Strong, equitable climate policies will help North Carolina reap the economic benefits of the growing clean energy economy, while improving air quality, especially for communities that currently bear a disproportionate share of harmful air pollution.”

Gov Cooper issued Executive Order 80 in 2018 and Executive Order 246 in January 2022, committing the state to reduce economy-wide emissions 40% from 2005 levels by 2025 and at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, respectively.

In late 2021, pollution goals recommended in the state’s Clean Energy Plan – to reduce carbon emissions from the electric-power sector 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 –  were codified by the NC General Assembly in HB 951, requiring the North Carolina Utilities Commission to develop a “Carbon Plan” to reduce emissions from public utilities in line with this goal. The report’s estimate of a 28% to 38% reduction in economy-wide emissions by 2030 represents a best-case scenario that assumes the NCUC adopts strong power sector policies to achieve carbon reductions without delay.  

To close North Carolina’s emissions gap, the report recommends that Gov Cooper pursue the following actions:

  • Lock in pollution reductions in the power sector: Ramping up clean energy is key to not only reducing pollution from electricity, but also for cleaning up other sectors, such as transportation and buildings, that rely on electricity. Adopting a strong Carbon Plan that drives out fossil fuels and expands clean energy will be a determining factor in achieving power-sector goals. A program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is being harnessed by 11 eastern states to lower climate pollution from power plants, is under consideration by state environmental regulators and could also play a key role in driving progress toward North Carolina’s power sector climate goals.
  • Pursue a comprehensive approach to clean transportation: Currently, transportation contributes the largest share of the state’s emissions, and that portion may grow to 42% to 46% of the state’s emissions in 2030. While EO 246 takes an important step in setting a goal to reach 1,250,000 registered zero-emission vehicles by 2030, North Carolina will need to identify solutions to achieve those targets while simultaneously driving down pollution from existing fleets.
  • Identify new ways to cut pollution across the economy: The state’s forthcoming Deep Decarbonization Pathways Analysis will be an important step to take a comprehensive, economy-wide view and identify additional sector-specific approaches to reduce emissions. It is critical that the state determine the most viable pathway to decarbonize across the economy and move quickly to put them into action. 

Read the full report here.

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