As Massachusetts lawmakers gathered to hear testimony on climate policy this summer, they and their constituents also lived through a litany of severe weather events outside the State House’s marble halls.

Canada’s worst wildfire season in recorded history, and the smoke’s impacts on air quality along the East Coast. Heat waves that hit cities especially hard. Disastrous flooding throughout New England.

This summer, Northampton was inundated. City Councilor Alex Jarrett told lawmakers at a July hearing that he'd stood alongside a farmer who watched as her crops and equipment got washed away. With emotion in her voice, state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa recounted what she’d seen in her district.

“I’m going to talk about the farmland that I walked through yesterday, the 80 acres that are completely destroyed. Farmers who I don’t know how they’re going to make it. People who had to be rescued from their homes with ropes,” Sabadosa said. “It’s devastating. What has happened to my district is devastating, and while passing this legislation is not going to fix everything that happened, it is a step forward because climate change is real, it is here, and we are in this precise moment suffering from its impacts.”

Jarrett and Sabadosa were both speaking in support of bills involving fossil fuel-free buildings, one of several ideas being pitched as the state considers its next steps on climate policy.

Massachusetts passed a pair of landmark climate laws in the last legislative session. One commits the state to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The other, its supporters said at the time, provides tools to help get there.

Now, with greenhouse-gas reduction targets looming, advocates and some lawmakers are urging more aggressive action for the state to meet its goals and better prepare for the realities of climate change. They're pushing for change on all fronts, such as decarbonization, energy efficiency, solar power, electric transportation, workforce development and more.

Proposals to boost fossil-fuel free building production are among dozens of bills the Legislature’s energy policy committee has held hearings on this summer.

“The state Legislature takes a long time,” ZeroCarbonMA co-founder and director Lisa Cunningham said. “It moves very slowly, and then it moves very quickly.”

On climate policy, Cunningham said, “we really need to act a lot faster.”

But the joint committee that hears these bills, the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, has been stymied by an internal power struggle between its chairs, Rep. Jeff Roy and Sen. Mike Barrett. It’s forcing bill supporters in some cases to deliver the same testimony twice — once before the committee’s House members, and once for its Senate members.

The spat could end up making it harder for the House and Senate to advance and agree on the next round of climate legislation. Even under normal circumstances, the paths to the last few major climate laws were not quick, often stretching into the final hours of formal legislative sessions.

“The only way to really reduce our carbon emissions is to stop using fossil fuels immediately,” Cunningham said. “That's what the UN — the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change — has said. That's what all the experts have said, and we are just creating basically an unlivable world.”

Cunningham, an architect, compares fossil fuels to asbestos or lead pipes, long since banned from new construction because of health concerns. She and other ZeroCarbonMA members say cities and towns should be allowed to require new buildings and major renovations be fossil-fuel free, and that it doesn't make sense to hook up any new buildings to fossil fuel infrastructure that will eventually need to be ripped out.

The state’s 2022 climate law established a pilot allowing 10 communities to do just that. The program prioritized the first municipalities that asked the Legislature’s permission to prohibit fossil fuels in new construction: Arlington, Lexington, Brookline, Acton, Concord, Cambridge, Lincoln, Newton, West Tisbury and Aquinnah.

West Tisbury has since asked to withdraw because it doesn’t meet affordable housing requirements laid out in the law, while other communities like Boston want to find their way into the program.

But some lawmakers and advocates are concerned that this pilot program hasn’t been equitable, pointing to the fact that the 10 communities are wealthier and clustered in the eastern part of the state. Northampton’s Rep. Sabadosa and state Sen. Jo Comerford have filed bills that would remove the cap and let other communities adopt similar policies without legislative approval.

The statewide advocacy organization Environment Massachusetts is urging the Legislature to set more detailed, ambitious targets to set the state up for success on its goals.

“We need to strive for more, and given the urgency of the climate crisis that we are facing, the proof is in this summer, too — the weather patterns, the flash flooding,” said Lydia Churchill, the clean energy associate at Environment Massachusetts. “It’s been scary, the wildfires in Canada and Hawaii. It's all over the place. It's at our doorstep.”

Environment Massachusetts supports a bill that would require the state to get its electricity entirely from clean sources, like wind and solar, by 2035. The bill calls for 100% clean heating and transportation by 2045.

Churchill said a key component of the bill is that it lays out specific steps toward meeting that timeline. It would require new buildings to use only clean energy starting in 2028, mandate the retrofitting of at least 1 million homes and 300 million square feet of commercial space, and direct the MBTA to convert all its commuter rail lines to electric power by 2035.

An earlier version of the 100% Clean Act called for all new cars sold in Massachusetts to be electric by 2035, and legislators included that provision in the 2022 climate law.

The organization has been canvassing door-to-door for clean power legislation. Churchill said people are often curious about what the transition would mean for them and their household. Rather than immediate transformation, she said the bill lays out clear steps and incentives toward its goals.

“There is appetite for it,” Churchill said. “I think people understand now that we cannot keep depending on fossil fuels.”

Did you know?

As of 2021, more than half of Massachusetts households heated their homes with natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About one in four used fuel oil for heat, and more than one in six heated with electricity.

For more than a decade, legislation has set out to limit carbon emissions. A 2008 state law, the Global Warming Solutions Act, required Massachusetts to reduce its carbon emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The 2021 climate law called for additional limits along the way, and the Baker administration set emissions-reduction targets of 33% by 2050 and 50% by 2030.

Electrifying buildings and transportation — which together account for roughly two-thirds of emissions statewide — is a major part of the overall strategy.

Gov. Maura Healey, whose first executive order added a climate chief to her Cabinet, has taken steps with those goals in mind, such as launching a $50 million green bank to support clean energy projects in affordable housing. Some want to see her go further — the activist group Extinction Rebellion Boston has been holding banners outside the State House since June, calling for Healey and legislative leaders to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat and architect of the Global Warming Solutions Act, has been making the case that Massachusetts needs to back up its climate policies with more money. He's proposed a $2 billion Clean Energy and Climate Action Fund that could go toward research, workforce development, energy efficiency, electrification and other efforts to drive down emissions.

"I think a lot of people are in a position right now across all the governments, and other national governments as well, where we think, 'Well, we've got these plans in place, and we have net-zero by 2050, and yes, we're going to go on a decarbonization pathway,'" Pacheco told GBH News. "But there's very little action in terms of funding. ... And if they don't fund them adequately, what ends up happening is we'll be sitting here in 2030 saying, 'Oh, well, we just missed our targets because we weren't able to get them done quick enough.'"

Pacheco's idea is modeled after the 10-year, $1 billion investment Massachusetts made in the life sciences sector under former Gov. Deval Patrick. Other funding proposals are out there, as well — a coalition of more than 170 groups has lined up behind legislation to set up a $300 million Zero Carbon Renovation Fund to defray the cost of building upgrades.

David Melly of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, one of the groups in the coalition, says the $300 million fund would "be a critical tool in the toolbox."

"But we need a lot of tools to do everything that we need to do in this space," he said.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center reported last month that Massachusetts will need to add more than 38,000 clean energy workers by the end of the decade — growing the current workforce by more than a third — to keep pace with its emissions reduction targets. The state will have to meet the labor demand to carry out renovations such as installing heat pumps, solar panels or electric vehicle charging stations — as well as assembling and connecting wind turbines, maintaining electric vehicles, and overseeing projects across the clean energy spectrum.

The chairs of the energy committee, Barrett and Roy, have both signaled that workforce needs could be one area they're targeting for action.

When the report came out, Roy said it presented "an opportunity for strategic state action to create 21st-century clean energy jobs amid real-world labor challenges," and Barrett said he didn't see how the state could meet its greenhouse-gas reduction limits without attracting "a slew of workers to fill jobs."

"We can have all the money in the world, we can have all the best ideas in the world," Pacheco said. "But if we don't have a workforce to actually implement those ideas, we will not meet our requirements, either."