What the California Senate Bill 596 Means for Concrete Producers

California Senate Bill 596 (SB 596) was introduced in the California State Senate in 2020 and signed into law in 2021 by Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill aims to make California's concrete production more sustainable, which will help the state meet its climate change and environmental goals.

Summary of California Senate Bill 596 

SB 596 requires cement producers in California to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the production of cement by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030, with the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2045. This marks the first time the state has required specific reductions of an economic sector.

Senator Josh Becker, a first-term legislator and vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies said in a press release, “California is now the leader in driving decarbonization of the cement industry – a crucial material in the built environment, but one that accounts for 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the most challenging industries to decarbonize.” Senator Becker was the driving force behind SB 596.

Cement, the ingredient that gives concrete its strength, is responsible for 7-8% of the world’s total CO2 emissions and is the most significant contributor to embodied carbon in the built environment. 

As part of the bill, the state board will develop a comprehensive strategy for the cement industry to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible, but no later than December 31, 2045. The strategy must be in place by July 1, 2023. As part of this strategy, the state board will define metrics and establish a baseline from which to measure greenhouse gas emissions and reductions. It will also work to remove any barriers inhibiting it from achieving its targets and introduce incentives to expedite the adoption of new technologies and processes to eliminate emissions from cement production.

What it Means for Cement Producers

SB 596 has a significant impact on cement producers in California, as they now need to invest in new technologies and processes to measure and reduce their emissions.

Once the state board’s strategy is implemented in July 2023, Bill 596 requires that cement producers operating in California report their emissions data to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This will likely involve the use of Type III Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), reports that quantify the environmental impact of specific products.

Concrete Producers Can - And Should - Be Proactive

The broader impact of SB596 is that the state is turning its focus toward sustainability in both cement and concrete. 

Concrete producers can proactively create EPDs for their products by partnering with an EPD service provider (like CarbonCure Express EPD) to conduct life cycle assessments of the concrete plant and materials, and produce the reports to prove the carbon footprint of concrete mixes and products.

Once producers know their baseline emissions data, they can begin to explore possible options for reducing emissions including using alternative raw materials, such as fly ash and slag, in place of cement, or using carbon removal technologies like CarbonCure’s solutions.

By taking proactive steps, producers can gain a competitive advantage and be ahead of the curve when policy evolves to include EPDs for all concrete products (as we’re now seeing with the Federal Buy Clean requirements.)

More States to Follow

While California is leading the way in legislation to support the decarbonization of concrete, other states are working in parallel and will be watching the effects of SB 596 closely. Alex Jackson, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) said, “This new law will lead the way nationally to address emissions from cement production.”

In fact, new policies and legislation targeting low carbon concrete have already been introduced in Portland, Marin County, Hawaii, Colorado, Austin, and New York State

If you’re interested in learning more about low carbon policies affecting concrete producers across North America, visit the dedicated policy section on our website. For more about how CarbonCure can support concrete producers with software to measure the carbon footprint of concrete—and technology to manage it - contact us.


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