California Enacts Legislation to Slash Cement Emissions

NRDC Expert Blog
By Alex Jackson

Governor Gavin Newsom signed groundbreaking legislation today to zero-out carbon pollution from cement used in the world's fifth-largest economy. Senate Bill 596 by Senator Josh Becker, which earned bipartisan support, directs the California Air Resources Board to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions associated with cement used within California as soon as possible, but no later than 2045, and to establish interim targets for reducing cement’s greenhouse gas intensity. The bill builds on a pledge by California’s cement industry to be carbon neutral by midcentury and will identify key barriers and solutions to turn that commitment into action.

NRDC sponsored SB 596 in partnership with a broad coalition and participated in a constructive dialogue with the author's office and the California Nevada Cement Association that ultimately led to CNCA's support for the bill.

Cement’s Giant Carbon Footprint

Cement is a dry powder mixed with aggregate, sand, and water to produce concrete. Cement plants manufacture clinker—produced by heating limestone and clay in a rotating kiln at very high temperatures—as the “glue” that binds a concrete mix together.

And concrete is everywhere. It is the most widely used material on earth (last year 30 billion tons of concrete were produced globally) and demand is growing due to urbanization. Traditional cement production is also highly polluting. While cement typically constitutes 10-15% of concrete’s mass in a typical mix, it accounts for 80-90% of its GHG emissions and is a major source of local air pollution. Together, the ubiquity of concrete and the emissions-intensity of making cement means the cement industry would rank as the world’s fourth-largest emitter if it were a country, contributing nearly 8% of global carbon dioxide output. Here at home, cement manufacturing is California’s second-largest industrial source of carbon pollution after oil and gas production.

Clearly, these trends need to change—and fast—if we are going to achieve our climate targets both within and beyond California.


Alex Jackson is a senior attorney with the Climate & Clean Energy Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council.