State Senator Josh Becker at COP26

California state Sen. Josh Becker, second from left, speaks with attendees at the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last week. He says the trip is worthwhile in part because of the “chance encounters” he is able to have with people who can make a difference in the global crisis. Photo courtesy Josh Becker

Even before returning home from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, state Sen. Josh Becker has proposed legislation that would require California government operations to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. That’s 10 years ahead of the goal for the entire state economy.

Becker hopes that his “Build Clean Faster” agenda will help California serve as an example for other states and the rest of the world by reaching carbon neutral goals ahead of the curve.

Becker, whose district includes the coast from Pacifica to Año Nuevo State Park, was among more than 20 state legislators and officials in the California delegation led by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to the Glasgow conference. Since taking office last December, Becker has joined other local representatives raising their voices and taking actions addressing climate change.

Earlier this month, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin made climate change the focus of a presentation to the Pacifica Rotary Club, stressing that climate change is already here and encouraging “all of us to do our own part in our everyday lives” to mitigate its impact. Peninsula Assemblyman Marc Berman introduced AB1010 earlier this year, requiring licensed architects to take continuing education courses in carbon neutral construction. Becker noted that cement and concrete account for 7 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, making clean construction essential for reducing greenhouse gases.

Berman added that he “looks forward to learning more about the details of Sen. Becker's proposal, and teaming up with him in the legislature to pass innovative solutions to our climate crisis.”

California, with an economy that would rank among that of the top five countries in the world, and with 10 percent of the U.S. population, has much at stake as climate change alters geography and the economy. Becker emphasized that “the San Mateo coastline is at greater risk from rising sea levels than any other segment of the California shoreline,” echoing Mullin’s observation that the impact of coastal erosion is already visible in Pacifica.

As part of the state’s climate resiliency budget allocation, Mullin secured $7.75 million toward the construction of a seawall at the base of the bluff to stop further erosion.

Speaking by phone from Glasgow before a late dinner with representatives from other states and nations, Becker also stressed the economic opportunities climate change presents for the district. “We are ahead of the curve with companies developing new technologies for cars, homes and transforming the way we work.” He added that in Glasgow he discovered that “people from around the world are keenly interested in and aware of what we do in California.”

Among the major challenges for enabling state operations to reach zero emissions will be converting a fleet of about 56,000 vehicles. Currently only 2 percent of the vehicles are zero-emissions. Under Becker’s proposal, all state buildings will also need to rely on clean energy sources within little more than a decade.

Becker argues that pushing California to undergo the necessary conversions will help leaders understand the hurdles everyone in the state faces in order to reach the broader 2045 goal. He acknowledged that there will be short-term costs, such as vehicle purchases, but believes these will pay for themselves over time.

Some costs could be covered by climate allocations in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” package. Much of the work will fall to the California Department of General Services, which functions as real estate and business manager for the state. Although the specific details of Becker’s proposals are not yet available, Ana M. Lasso, director of General Services stated, “We are making significant strides to advance sustainability projects throughout the state, including transforming our state fleet.”

Becker defended the need for a large California delegation flying on carbon-producing jets to in-person meetings in Glasgow. “Chance encounters, such as meeting a delegate from Brazil who works on low-carbon fuels while on the bus to the conference, offer opportunities to learn more about steps being taken around the world to meet the challenge of climate change,” he said. Becker will introduce bills enacting his proposals when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

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