This page provides an overview of the steps North Carolina is taking to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
In 2002, North Carolina passed the Clean Smokestacks Act (Session Law 2002-4), which directed the Division of Air Quality within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) (today the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality) to study issues related to carbon dioxide emissions. In 2005, DENR established the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG) to primarily focus on how the state could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, CAPAG released a report with 56 recommendations that could be further researched and considered by the state in the future. Notably, one of the report’s recommendations, CC5, called for a state climate adaptation plan; the state, however, did not pursue a state climate adaptation plan at that point.
In 2006, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change (“Commission”) to study issues related to climate change (Session Law 2005-442). The Commission met from February 2006 to May 2010 when it completed its final report. Among other recommendations, the Commission asked the state legislature to require DENR, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, to develop a “North Carolina Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.” In 2009, the General Assembly introduced House Bill (H.B.) 1808, which called for DENR to develop a comprehensive “North Carolina Climate Change Adaptation Strategy” that would consist of both a statewide climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. However, H.B. 1808 was never signed into law.
The Commission also recommended that state agencies conduct an inventory of what programs and decisions consider climate change impacts. In 2010, the General Assembly implemented this recommendation in Session Law 2010-180. This law requires state agencies to review their planning and regulatory programs to determine potential impacts from climate change and sea-level rise and make recommendations about how state programs could better incorporate adaptation.
On October 29, 2018, North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order (EO) No. 80 entitled, "North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy." EO 80 calls for the state to take several actions related to climate change to improve the health and well-being of North Carolina's residents, foster innovation and growth of a clean energy workforce, prepare more resilient communities, and reduce the impacts of climate change, like more frequent and intense hurricanes, flooding, extreme temperature, drought, saltwater intrusion, and beach erosion. The EO calls for action to prepare for the impacts of climate change through adaptation and resilience and for mitigation efforts. As a result of the order, the state: established the "North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council;" will integrate climate adaptation and resiliency goals into agency programs, policies, and operations; and developed a "North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resiliency Plan" in 2020.
On January 7, 2022, North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper signed EO No. 246 entitled, "North Carolina’s Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy." EO 246 calls for the state to take several actions related to climate change to improve the health and well-being of North Carolina's residents, prioritize and advance environmental justice and equity, engage with stakeholders and incorporate public input into decisionmaking processes, increase awareness about the health impacts of climate change including the disproportionate effects on underserved communities, and build a diverse workforce that is prepared to address climate change.
About half of EO 246 addresses adaptation and resilience and requires integrating climate and equity into government-wide actions when implementing EO 80 and the state's 2020 Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan (see below). For example, state agencies are required to identify an environmental justice and equity lead who is the agency’s point person to support these efforts and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is required to increase public awareness of the health impacts of climate change. In addition, the state must “seek public input on additional executive action to advance environmental justice, equity, and affordability priorities of North Carolinians that live in, work in, or represent low- and moderate income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color.”
In 2012, the North Carolina Interagency Leadership Team (ILT) — a group of 11 state and federal agencies — released a report entitled Climate Ready North Carolina: Building a Resilient Future. The report, which included many of the Commission’s and H.B. 1808’s recommended components for an “adaptation strategy,” provides a framework for how the state could collaboratively create an integrated climate adaptation response for North Carolina across agencies. The report discusses how the state can proactively prepare for projected impacts of climate variability and weather extremes, with an emphasis on practical, economically feasible options that can be undertaken by agencies working with partners at the local, regional, and federal levels. The report presents potential climate impacts on the state’s economy, infrastructure, and natural resources and strategies for evaluating those risks when planning, designing, and implementing projects.
In accordance with EO 80, the state released the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan in June 2020. The Plan is the state’s first climate change adaptation plan. It includes the results of vulnerability assessments within 11 critical sectors, climate justice concerns and strategies, and recommendations for nature-based solutions to enhance ecosystem resiliency and sequester carbon in the state’s natural and working lands. This Plan establishes the North Carolina Resilience Strategy, which is a compilation of documents organized into four elements:
The 2020 Plan concludes by describing next steps for implementing and updating the North Carolina Resilience Plan as well as strategic cross-cutting resilience initiatives.
Since North Carolina just released the North Carolina Resilience Plan in June 2020, these pages will be updated in the future with the progress the state is making in implementing the adaptation actions and goals set forth in the Plan.
Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed and adopted to help North Carolina prepare for the impacts of climate change, are featured in the chart below.
The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress states are making in preparing for the impacts of climate change, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
(Research last updated: February 9, 2022).
North Carolina 2020 Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan
Finalized: June 2, 2020
|Resource Name||Resource Type||Date|
|North Carolina Executive Order No. 246: North Carolina’s Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy||Law and Governance||January 7, 2022|
|NC Executive Order No. 80: North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy||Law and Governance||October 29, 2018|
|Resource Name||Sector(s) Covered||Date|
|North Carolina 2020 Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan||Agriculture and food, Biodiversity and ecosystems, Business, Coastal, Cultural resources, Energy, Fish and fisheries, Forestry, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment, Public health, Transportation, Frontline Communities, Water resources, Wildlife||June 2, 2020|
|North Carolina Climate and Health Adaptation Plan||Public health||2016|
|North Carolina Highway 12 Storm Recovery||Coastal, Transportation|
|Climate Ready North Carolina: Building a Resilient Future||Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Cultural resources, Emergency preparedness, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment, Public health, Transportation, Water resources||August 2012|
|Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Asheville, North Carolina: Affordable Housing, Environmental, and Climate Resiliency Initiatives||June 16, 2022|
|Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, Flood Risk Assessment and Reduction Community Guidebook||April 6, 2021|
|Cumberland County, North Carolina, Climate Resiliency Plan||February 2016|
|French Broad River MPO Long Range Transportation Plan – Climate Change Chapter||September 23, 2010|
|Resource Name||Resource Category||Date|
|North Carolina Sea Level Rise Assessment Report - 2015 Update||Assessments||March 31, 2015|
|Adapting to Climate Change: A Handbook for Local Governments in North Carolina||Planning||June 2013|
|North Carolina Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report||Assessments||March 2010|