Climate Change Resolutions: Political Reporting RTDNAC 2020

Jul 8, 2020

In October, Governor Roy Cooper released his Clean Energy Plan for North Carolina. The plan has two central pledges: a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 – and the state becoming carbon neutral by 2050. WHQR reports on what’s happening locally.

Blake Fleming, an organizer for environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club, tracks which counties and municipalities have passed resolutions aiming for a carbon-free future:

"They do have to have a firm community-wide commitment by 2050 towards 100% clean, renewable energy, 80% by 2030. We do know these are resolutions, and these are really ambitious goals, but these actions by the local officials show that they will prioritize this as one of their leading issues."

There are 25 local governments, including places like Wake County and the City of Asheville that have made the pledge.

Here in the Cape Fear Region, the City of Wilmington did pass a resolution in 2017.

The City now has a full-time staff member dedicated to environmental sustainability, is expanding recycling in public spaces, and adding two new electric charging stations. A city spokesperson says they’re also buying an electric truck.

New Hanover County hasn’t yet made any carbon reduction or climate pledges.

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Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says the city is working towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This includes things like retrofitting government-owned buildings to be more energy efficient and installing LED lighting. 

Back in 2009 – the city adopted a resolution in support of the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The city has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 58% by 2050.

Mayor Bill Saffo:

"One of the concerns that we have when we sign any kind of agreement or any kind of pledge like that is – we want to make sure that we have some sort of a goal, some sort of a process in place to start enacting things that will help us in the reduction of those greenhouse emissions."

Saffo says one thing that might help is a software program called Clear Path, purchased by the city this year that tracks greenhouse gas emissions annually. The next goal the city hopes to achieve is in 2020 – reducing emissions by 17%.

In the state, there are cities and counties who have pledged a 100% renewable future by 2050. Saffo acknowledges this will be difficult:

"I don’t know if we can achieve 100%; it would be nice to be able to achieve 100%, but I think we need to take a look at that model to see what it would take to get to 100%."

Among his other environmental goals: planting more trees, eliminating plastic bags in the city’s recycling system, and increasing the number of bike trails.

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Wilmington leaders want a 100% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That’s the announcement Mayor Bill Saffo made at the Tuesday, Jan. 7 City Council meeting. Saffo proposes an Ad Hoc Committee to help achieve this goal. 

When WHQR’s Rachel Keith spoke to Saffo just a few weeks ago, he wasn’t sure if a 100% renewable future was possible. Now, his perspective has shifted:

“We feel that we can get there. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of work involved, but we have to have a plan of action in place so that when we’re adopting our budgets, we know how much we're going to budget for these types of reductions.”

It’s an increase from Wilmington’s previous goal of 58% reduction by 2050. But Saffo thinks an Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of 21 citizens collaborating with city staff, can help reach this new goal, also set by 25 other local governments in the state.

“It gives us a roadmap and it gives us a plan of action. Just saying we're going to do a 100% reduction and not put a plan together would just be giving it lip service. This is adopting a plan and then putting the appropriation behind it, and money behind it, to make it happen.”

Saffo hopes to have the committee up and running within two weeks, and a formal plan laid out within six to eight months. He suggests that the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners develop a similar plan of action.