Senate Environmental Quality Committee Advances Low-Carbon Concrete Bill by Senator Becker to Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Vital Building Material
For Immediate Release
SACRAMENTO – Legislation by state Senator Josh Becker to sharply reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from concrete and its key ingredient, cement, cleared its first hurdle today by gaining approval from the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
“Concrete and cement are vital to our economy with concrete being the most widely used building material in the world,” said Senator Becker, the Peninsula Democrat who serves as vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies. “In fact, human-made objects now outweigh all life on Earth and concrete makes up about 50% of the mass of all human-made things on our planet, according to Scientific American.
“Unfortunately, concrete and cement are a major source of greenhouse gases, accounting for about 7% of carbon emissions globally. In California, they are the second largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions, behind only oil refineries. We now can take advantage of new technology to take a big bite of out of these harmful emissions. Coupled with a regulatory framework that more strongly supports industry transformation, we can speed transition to low-carbon concrete in our state and its ultimate carbon neutrality.”
To enhance that more supportive environment, Senator Becker’s Senate Bill 596 sets an interim target for a 40% reduction in the emissions intensity of the concrete and cement industry by 2030 to spur near term action and calls for industry carbon neutrality by 2045. The bill also recognizes “the wide range of commercially available technologies and practices” to reduce carbon production by the industry and directs the state Air Resources Board to:
- Develop a strategy for achieving the targets,
- Adopt regulatory measures to drive demand for low-carbon materials, and
- Create incentives for reducing emissions and to protect producers who do so from unfair competition from out-of-state producers who are not subject to the same rules.
While concrete is the backbone of our built environment, making its key ingredient, cement, currently takes a lot of fossil fuel energy and the process produces enormous amounts of carbon. Emissions from the production and use of concrete contribute about 8 million metric tons of CO2 in California each year, equivalent to about 1.7 million cars. California is forecast to increase cement production and use of concrete by as much as 42% in the next two decades.
“To avoid a spike in emissions, California needs to advance polices to both reduce the carbon intensity of cement production and grow market demand for lower carbon concrete,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council, which partnered with Senator Becker on SB 596, in a letter supporting the bill.
The concrete and cement industry have worked to reduce emissions over the years and SB 596 creates the supportive environment to speed and broadly expand that progress and use new technology to do so, Senator Becker said. Further breakthroughs include technology pioneered by winners of this year’s Carbon XPRIZE, who are pursuing new ways to knock down carbon production by the industry. One of the winners testified at the SB 596 hearing.
“There exist multiple pathways to reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete production. While many…can be implemented immediately, others require advance planning and policy development as envisioned in SB 596 to overcome barriers and pull forward new technologies,” said Dr. Gaurav Sant. He led the UCLA engineering team that won one of the 2021 Carbon XPRIZEs by devising a novel way to capture carbon and use it to produce a new type of concrete invented by the team. That concrete, as it hardens and gains strength, absorbs and traps greenhouse gas.
Further testimony came from Dr. Bob Epstein, co-founder of Project 2030: “California currently has no industrial policy plan for the cement and concrete industries. Domestic cement manufacturers have laid out a blueprint for decarbonizing but how can we expect them to act when there is an unfair, unlevel market with imported cement?”
“California has the industries, the people and the motivation to execute a low carbon concrete and cement strategy as envisioned by SB596," Epstein added. “Moving this bill forward will not only make California construction more secure and clean, it will provide leadership to the rest of the world to reduce emissions from a major source of greenhouse gases.
Other work in new technology:
CarbonCure, which also won the 2021 Carbon XPRIZE
Studies & Articles on Decarbonizing Concrete & Cement
Carbon180, “Paving the Way for Low-Carbon Concrete”
NRDC, “Smarter Procurement Policies Can Help Decarbonize Concrete”
McKinsey, “Laying the Foundation for Zero-carbon Cement”
ClimateWorks, “Deep Decarbonization Roadmap for the Cement and Concrete Industries in California”
Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, firstname.lastname@example.org