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North Carolina Climate Plan Puts Major Focus On Cutting Emissions

Photo Courtesy NC Dept of Environmental Quality

North Carolina environmental officials have unveiled a new climate plan designed to help the state cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly two-thirds before the end of the decade. Energy News Network (ENN) reported that if successful, the plan would surpass a state goal and meet scientists’ recommendations for how to avoid worse climate impacts.

According to an executive summary posted on the website of, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) developed the North Carolina Priority Climate Action Plan (PCAP) in response to requirements included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program. That program offers funding to states, local governments, Tribes, and territories to develop and put in place plans to reduce GHG emissions and other harmful air pollutants. The PCAP aims to identify high-priority emissions in North Carolina.

Photo Courtesy EPA

As required under the first phase of a federal grant program, the state’s climate plan was developed over six months and then submitted to the EPA in early March. In the second phase, the state aimed to use the plan in its application for $4.6 billion in competitive grants. The EPA will award individual grants of $2 million to $500 million later in the year.

If the NCDEQ is awarded the grant, the action plan will be developed into a Comprehensive Climate Action Plan due July 5, 2025

Most measures in the 189-page plan focus on sources of GHG emissions, such as transportation and industry. However, in a March 7 news release, Coastal Review noted that state officials have also taken a “different approach” by prioritizing natural and working land conservation and restoration to offset GHG emissions.

According to the release, the plan notes that there’s “compelling potential for natural and working lands to substantially offset (greenhouse gas emissions) by permanently storing atmospheric carbon in the ground and plants.”

Photo Courtesy NC Dept of Environmental Quality

Jacob Boyd, who helped develop the plan’s natural and working lands section, told Coastal Review that the idea to incorporate natural and working lands into the plan was considered early on.

“From the very beginning, the department had made the decision that natural and working lands should be a component, not just the greenhouse gas emitting sectors,” Boyd said.

ENN reported that North Carolina is already on pace to cut emissions by just more than 40% compared to 2005 levels. Under the new climate plan, which was crafted as part of the federal government’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, emissions would be further reduced.

The PCAP covers six key economic areas of the state’s economy: transportation, electricity, buildings, industry, waste, and natural and working lands.

According to the plan, as of 2020, combustion activities accounted for 80% of total gross GHG emissions statewide.

Transportation was the largest emissions sector at 36% of the total, followed by electricity generation and use (30%) and residential, commercial, and industrial combustion (14%). 

Photo Courtesy DEQ

Officials see an especially big opportunity to curb pollution in the building sector. ENN noted measures to cut energy usage per square foot could account for 60% of pollution reductions by 2030. 

“The buildings sector is one with a lot of low-hanging fruit that hasn’t been widely addressed to date,” Sara Edwards, a spokesperson with NCDEQ, told ENN. “Even new housing stock coming online is not as energy efficient as it could be.”

According to Edwards, state agency buildings alone have identified more than $200 million of energy-saving projects that are waiting for funding to be implemented.“The same types of projects could be implemented at public universities and community colleges, as well as schools and local government buildings, resulting in significant ongoing savings to [state] taxpayers,” she said to ENN.


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