The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), despite its eventual cancellation, represents the continued monopoly of the fossil fuel industry and is the latest example of systemic environmental racism from dirty energy extraction and delivery. Besides the fact the pipeline was designed to cut through communities already dealing with inequality, the ACP would have increased fossil fuel use for years to come, exacerbating existing environmental destruction.
Burning fossil fuels has served as a primary source of energy since the 1880s. However, over 97% of climate scientists now agree this action is the main contributor to climate change. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that trap sunlight, causing global warming. On top of the long-term climate impacts, it also causes pollutants to enter our air and water, threatening our health more immediately.
On top of the benefits to our climate, air and water quality, and environmental justice, switching to renewable energy will boost our economy:
- Solar energy is now cheaper than energy from coal, saving North Carolinians money.
- The installation of clean energy projects creates jobs in places that need them.
- A North Carolina energy portfolio sourced predominantly by clean energy will reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuel imports.
Under Gov. Cooper’s leadership, North Carolina has moved toward a clean energy future. In 2018, the governor issued Executive Order 80, formally committing North Carolina to a 40% reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. This will be achieved in part through a pledge to boost renewables.
However, North Carolina can still do more. Some of our neighboring states set great examples by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based system for East Coast states to cap greenhouse gas emissions efficiently. If North Carolina elects enough environmental champions to our General Assembly this November, we can follow Virginia in passing legislation similar to their Clean Economy Act, which allowed them to join RGGI. Passing clean energy laws and joining RGGI or a similar pact would cement North Carolina as a leader in the fight against climate change, though these efforts must do more to address ongoing environmental injustices, and center impacted communities in the policy-making process.