RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina would join 13 states and Puerto Rico in the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition opposed to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Their goal is reducing their states’ share of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to hit Paris Agreement targets. Thirteen of the member states have Democrat governors; two have Republican governors.
“In the absence of leadership from Washington, North Carolina is proud to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, and we remain committed to reducing pollution and protecting our environment,” Cooper said in a press release.
“Clean air and a healthy environment are vital for a strong economy and a healthier future,” Cooper said. “So much of North Carolina’s economy relies on protecting our treasured natural resources, and I’m committed to maintaining the quality of the air we breathe for generations to come.”
Roy Cordato, senior economist and resident scholar at the John Locke Foundation, isn’t impressed.
“This is nothing but virtue signaling on the part of the governor. Nothing he or his alliance with these … other states will do will have any impact on future temperatures,” Cordato said.
“Given that that’s the case, this is nothing more than signaling to his fellow Democratic governors that he’s a good guy just like they are,” Cordato said.
Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the state has increased reliance on clean-burning natural gas to meet energy needs as it lowered the use of coal and has steadily reduced its greenhouse gas emissions for years.
North Carolina’s energy actions already are expected to meet Paris Agreement reduction goals “without further regulation, and regardless of whether the governor signs on to a meaningless coalition to try to score political points with his base,” Carver said.
Meeting the Paris Agreement goals could cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion and 6.5 million industrial sector jobs by 2040, according to research by National Economics Research Associates Economic Consulting.
If all of the Paris Agreement commitments were followed, global temperature would fall by a mere .306 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to a peer reviewed paper by climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg.
The Paris Agreement was voluntary and lacked enforcement mechanisms to ensure participating countries would stick to their commitments. Signatory nations could set their own reduction goals, which allowed China, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, to shun any reduction pledge until 2030.
Cooper said a U.S. Climate Alliance report released Wednesday found its member states are collectively on track to meet, and possibly exceed, their portion of the U.S. commitment.
According to the report, Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in emissions by 2025, fulfilling their contribution to the Paris Agreement targets. Between 2005 and 2015 Alliance states reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent (compared to a 10 percent reduction by the rest of the country).
During that same decade, the report states, the combined economic output of Alliance states grew by 14 percent (the rest of the country grew by 12 percent). On a per-capita basis, economic output in Alliance states expanded twice as fast as in the rest of the country, showing that climate action and economic growth go hand in hand.
Cooper noted that he signed into law House Bill 589, Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina, which could roughly double North Carolina’s solar generation over the next four years.
North Carolina has the second-highest volume of installed solar capacity of all states. Cooper credits a range of state policies, including the N.C. Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. REPS requires investor-owned electric utilities to source 12.5 percent of their energy needs through renewable energy or energy efficiency measures by 2021.
Critics say REPS forces utilities to buy more costly solar power, and that expense is pushed onto consumers. State policies Cooper hailed as helping to expand the solar market include a federal PURPA law. Under the state’s implementation, PURPA extended some of the nation’s most generous provisions to solar developers, with taxpayers left picking up the higher costs.
In addition to North Carolina, the U.S. Climate Alliance includes California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.