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Rows of solar panels roll across the hills at the South Winston solar farm on Clemmonsville Road, across from Hobby Park in 2016.

North Carolina is doing its part to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change — and respiratory problems, among other ill effects of pollution — thanks to a plan proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to increase the electricity produced from renewable energy sources. The governor’s commitment and leadership in this area are to be commended, as are the efforts of the professionals at the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan is now open for public review and comment through Sept. 9.

The plan proposes reducing greenhouse gases from electricity production by 60% to 70% of 2005 levels by 2030; 50% by 2025; with a goal of getting to zero emissions by 2050, according to DEQ.

“We need to reduce emissions by two-thirds by 2030 and to get to zero by 2050,” Will Scott, the energy policy analyst with the NC Conservation Network, said. “An increasing number of states are moving in that direction.

“To remain competitive in the clean energy economy, North Carolina is going to have to have similarly ambitious goals. It’s about competition and opening up the energy marketplace.”

This is the proper direction for a thriving and healthy energy future and it follows up on significant progress made by the state. Greenhouse gas emissions are already 34% lower than 2005 levels, according to DEQ.

The plan would likely require retiring coal power plants and turning utilities more toward solar and wind energy production. It also suggests setting carbon dioxide budgets or carbon caps. These are strategies that have exhibited high degrees of success in other parts of the world and are becoming more mainstream all the time.

Local efforts are essential, especially since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gases on the world stage.

Cooper is one of 25 governors who have stepped up in Trump’s absence, signing on to the U.S. Climate Alliance and committing North Carolina to the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and supporting clean energy. An executive order signed by Cooper last year required the DEQ to devise the plan.

“Duke Energy has significantly reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal and adding more renewables and cleaner natural gas,” Stephen De May, the N.C. president of Duke Energy, said in a statement. “We are transitioning our system to even cleaner energy, while upholding our responsibility to provide reliable, affordable power to customers. We look forward to continued dialogue with diverse stakeholders to achieve the critical energy policy objectives for the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina may be doing its part, but it’s not enough to fix everything that’s wrong. Other areas of the country are getting worse, and our atmosphere doesn’t respect state borders. Maybe when they see the benefits here, they’ll wise up.

Some bristle at the idea of investing in clean energy, and in the past have noted its technological limitations (though the sun going down at night, and contracting cancer from windmills, are not among them).

Coal and gas seem reliable and are relatively cheap. But with investment and American ingenuity, clean energy technology has constantly improved and prices continually dropped.

On the other hand, dirty energy — coal and oil — have required more and more government intervention, in the form of subsidies and job protections, to survive.

Given the choice between sources of energy that pollute our air and water — which are risks to public health — and sources that produce limitless clean energy, especially at comparable prices, it’s difficult to see why anyone would choose pollution.

Careful planning now, based on sound science and firm commitment, will help preserve a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

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