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U.S. Won't Back Paris Climate Agreement, So Local Officials Act On Their Own

N.C. Environmental Secretary Michael Regan spoke at last month's signing of a state executive order to fight climate change.
N.C. Environmental Secretary Michael Regan spoke at last month's signing of a state executive order to fight climate change.

President Trump may have pulled the United States out of the 2017 Paris climate agreement, but its goals are alive in North Carolina. State and local governments are adopting their own measures to fight climate change.

Last month, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order with new goals for reducing the use of fossil fuels in North Carolina and committing the state to new environmentally friendly policies.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pamela Hemminger
Chapel Hill Mayor Pamela Hemminger

This summer and fall, mayors and local officials from Asheville to Wilmington have been discussing what they've done and can do to slow climate change.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said they're cutting energy use, buying electric buses and adding electric vehicle charging stations, among other things.

“You're seeing that come from the ground level up. And I think there's a great possibility of being successful no matter what the federal government's dictating,” Hemminger said during a break from Tuesday’s final meeting of the North Carolina “Cities Initiative.”

In Charlotte, the city council this summer approved a policy that calls for the city government to switch entirely to solar and other renewable energy sources, as well as nuclear power, by 2030.  It also encourages businesses and residents to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

States and local governments nationwide are pushing ahead with climate policies like these to help carry out the Paris agreement.  State environmental secretary Michael Regan said Tuesday it's an economic issue as much as a climate change issue. 

“The Trump administration is out of step with what mayors are dealing with each and every day," Regan said. "This issue is not a partisan issue, but an issue around competition."

A dozen cities are involved, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Cary.  Like Chapel Hill, many already have adopted local measures. 

At the fourth and final meeting Tuesday in Durham, they came up with a list of recommendations, including giving environmental ratings to state projects, expanding renewable energy options and improving energy-related building codes.

Hawley Truax of the Environmental Defense Fund
Hawley Truax of the Environmental Defense Fund

But will state and local efforts be enough? No, said Hawley Truax, of the Environmental Defense Fund, which helped organize the North Carolina mayors' meetings.

“Ultimately we will require leadership at the federal level, but we can't afford to wait,” Truax said.

The idea, he said, is to build momentum locally and push the federal government to act.


Cities Initiative pageat the N.C. DEQ website 

Copyright 2018 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.
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