Protecting our Environment

Protecting our state’s natural resources is critical for our families and our economy. Under Governor Cooper’s leadership, North Carolina is moving into a a clean energy future that will create jobs, reduce harmful emissions and protect our environment.

In January 2022, North Carolina affirmed its commitment to bold climate action and environmental justice. Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 246 (EO 246), which establishes science-based goals of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The Order directs numerous actions to achieve those goals in a manner that centers environmental justice and maximizes public health and economic benefits for North Carolinians.

EO 246 takes important steps to reduce GHG emission from the transportation sector, the state’s top-emitting source, by establishing targets of 1.25 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) registered and 50% of sales by 2030. In addition, it directs development of the North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan to guide the state’s transition to a clean transportation future. The Order also directs agencies to take steps to elevate the consideration of environmental justice, including by identifying an agency point person for environmental justice efforts. Each agency also will develop a public participation plan to ensure the public — especially underserved communities — are meaningfully engaged in government decision-making. The Order directs actions to increase workforce diversity in industries that are critical to addressing climate change as well as expand youth apprenticeship programs that prepare graduates for good-paying careers in the clean energy economy. Finally, the Order promotes accountability and long-term strategic planning by directing the regular updates to the statewide GHG inventory, an analysis of pathways for achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, and consideration of the social cost of GHG emissions in agency decision-making.

In North Carolina, as in the rest of the country, climate change is already leading to more intense storms and flooding, dangerously high temperatures, droughts, rising sea levels, and damage to ecosystems and wildlife. At the same time, the state has experienced significant job growth and economic benefits by leading the transition to renewable energy, electric vehicle manufacturing, and other industries throughout the clean energy supply chain. EO 246 will bolster and complement leadership across North Carolina’s public and private sectors to confront the climate crisis while cultivating an economy that serves all residents for generations to come. 

EO 246 builds on the Governor’s previous actions supporting clean energy, climate change, and environmental justice. In 2021, the Governor signed House Bill 951, a bipartisan law requiring the North Carolina Utilities Commission to take the necessary steps for state utility providers to reduce carbon emissions by 70% from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. HB 951 advances North Carolina into a reliable and affordable clean energy economy.

The Governor also signed Executive Order No. 80, affirming North Carolina's commitment to addressing climate change, Executive Order No. 143, establishing the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force to address long-term disparities and Executive Order No. 218, highlighting North Carolina’s commitment to offshore wind. These actions are making North Carolina less dependent on fossil fuels, bringing new high paying jobs to the state and helping remedy disproportionate environmental, economic, and health impacts on people of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities.

Environmental Justice


Although North Carolina is the birthplace of the environmental justice movement and has a rich history of community advocacy, more work is needed to advance environmental justice within the State. Governor Cooper has taken a whole-of-government approach to advance environmental justice efforts and help improve the quality of life in North Carolina communities. Communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities in North Carolina are disproportionately impacted by the changing climate and are overburdened by exposure to air pollution and other environmental degradation.

Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 246 directs various actions to advance environmental justice in North Carolina. The Order underscores the importance of emphasizing environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to a clean economy. It directs cabinet agencies to consider environmental justice when taking actions related to climate change, resilience, and clean energy and to identify an environmental justice lead to serve as the point person for agency environmental justice efforts. In addition, each cabinet agency will develop a public participation plan to improve communication and transparency with the public in government decision-making, particularly with underserved communities. The Order also directs Cabinet agencies to prioritize environmental justice, clean economy and climate priorities in budget decisions and to engage advocates and stakeholders to identify additional executive actions to advance an equitable clean economy.

Environmental Justice Leads

Pursuant to Section 7 of E.O. 246, each cabinet agency has identified an environmental justice and equity lead. The names and contact information for the EJ Leads are available here.

Public Participation Plans

Section 8 of E.O. 246 directs each cabinet agency to create a public participation plan. Those plans are available at the following links.

Community Input on Environmental Justice

Section 9 of E.O. 246 directs the Governor’s Office and cabinet agency leadership to seek public input on additional executive action to advance environmental justice. In 2022, the Governor’s Office held an online public listening session and also hosted a two-day workshop to educate EJ Leads and other cabinet agency personnel.

The Governor’s Office conducted public listening sessions on March 25, 2023 in Clinton, NC and June 17, 2023 in Charlotte, NC.

Want to Learn More or Provide Feedback

For questions or comments about the Governor’s work on environmental justice, please contact: contactgov@nc.gov.

North Carolina Deep Decarbonization Pathways Analysis

Read the Final Pathways Analysis

Análisis de las vías de descarbonización profunda de Carolina del Norte: Resumen Ejecutivo


Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 246 directs the development of a Deep Decarbonization Pathways Analysis (“Pathways Analysis”) to help the state better understand viable pathways to achieve net-zero GHG emissions across North Carolina’s economy by 2050 and interim targets. By modeling illustrative, forward-looking pathways to achieve emission targets, the analysis is designed to help policymakers and stakeholders understand the biggest opportunities to reduce emissions and sequester carbon, as well as further explore the tradeoffs between different emissions reduction strategies. The project will analyze various feasible pathways looking at a variety of factors ranging from technology trends to population growth.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Provide a comprehensive analysis of various technologically feasible GHG emissions reduction pathways to achieve economy-wide 2030 and 2050 GHG targets, including sector-specific emissions and sequestration trends over time to achieve the economy-wide targets.
  • Identify high-level policy and planning takeaways, drawing from individual pathways and a comparison between pathways, to will inform near-term, mid-term and long-term decarbonization efforts.
  • Equip policymakers and stakeholders with a better understanding of how to achieve deep decarbonization goals both across the economy and within specific sectors, building on extensive policy efforts underway and creating synergies with existing initiatives.

Want to Learn More or Provide Feedback

For questions or comments about the Pathways Analysis, please contact: contactgov@nc.gov.