News: Quick Takes

Governor signs up N.C. for Paris climate deal

GOP leaders chide Cooper, saying president was right to back away from green regulations that choke economic growth

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

RALEIGH — While the Trump administration opts out of the Paris climate change agreement, North Carolina will opt in, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

The Paris accord was signed in 2015 by 195 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who promised to reduce greenhouse emissions and subject themselves to the oversight of the United Nations.

The agreement allowed countries to set their own standards to reduce emissions.

Last week, President Trump announced the U.S. will ditch the agreement. The accord was unfair, he said, stating that he will negotiate with world leaders to reach a better deal.

North Carolina will ignore the decision and instead honor the Paris deal, Cooper said. The governor signed an open letter joining more than 1,000 other public officials and business leaders, including the governors of California, Connecticut, Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Hawaii.

Cutting pollution is a priority for the state, Cooper said.

“Pulling out of the Paris Accord is wrong for our country, our children, and the generations to come,” Cooper said. “North Carolina’s commitment to clean air and a healthy environment will remain a priority despite the lack of forward thinking leadership from the current administration.”

Republican lawmakers are skeptical of Cooper’s decision.

The environment is an important issue, but shouldn’t block economic growth — which is exactly what the Paris agreement did, said state Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

“Most North Carolinians believe it’s past time to reverse course on the job-killing overregulation of the Obama era — and the Paris Accord was a serious threat to President Trump’s ability to move our nation toward energy independence and cut unnecessary government red tape,” Berger said in a Facebook post. “Here in North Carolina, it would have driven up electricity bills, jeopardized good-paying jobs, and harmed our economy – while achieving few real gains to protect the environment.”

But the threat of long-term climate change is too great to ignore, Cooper said.

Conservative members of the state House aren’t blind to environmental needs, said Joseph Kyzer, a spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

“House Republicans are focused on North Carolina’s energy future and the best interests of our citizens this week by moving legislation that has a broad support from renewable power developers, utilities, and ratepayer protection groups alike,” Kyzer said.

House Bill 589, a broadly supported measure easing some of the subsidies and mandates for the renewable energy industry, is moving quickly and scheduled for a vote Wednesday on the House floor.

But Cooper won’t back down.

“It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors, and businesses,” he said in an open letter.