Key Issues > Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Various federal programs and international agreements, as well as policy options that Congress may consider in the future, are in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Federal programs are generally designed to promote emissions reductions technologies in the energy and transportation sectors.

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the primary sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2010 were electricity production (34 percent), transportation (27 percent), and industry (21 percent). The remaining 18 percent of 2010 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were contributed by the agriculture, commercial, and residential sectors. A number of programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been proposed or enacted in the United States and other developed countries, including:

  • carbon taxes,
  • cap-and-trade programs,
  • carbon offsets,
  • energy efficiency standards,
  • financial incentives (e.g., subsidies or tax credits),
  • voluntary agreements,
  • education campaigns, and
  • research, development and deployment of advanced technologies.

Table 1 shows options for addressing climate change.

Table 1: Selected Policies, Measures, and Instruments Used by Various Nations to Reduce Emissions and Address Climate Change, as of 2008

Selected Policies, Measures, and Instruments Currently Used by Various Nations to Address Climate Change

In addition, technologies such as carbon capture and storage and biofuels production have the potential to supplement policies designed to reduce emissions. Carbon capture and storage involves separating and storing carbon dioxide from an industrial or energy-related source, and preventing the release of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The figure below illustrates potential technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.

Figure 1: CO2 Capture, Transport, and Storage in Geologic Formations

CO2 Capture, Transport, and Storage in Geologic Formations

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Climate Change Issues:

Options for Addressing Challenges to Carbon Offset Quality
GAO-11-345:
Published: Feb 15, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 2011.

Coal Power Plants:

Aviation and Climate Change:

International Climate Change Programs:

Climate Change:

Federal Actions Will Greatly Affect the Viability of Carbon Capture and Storage As a Key Mitigation Option
GAO-08-1080:
Published: Sep 30, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 2008.

Climate Change:

Expert Opinion on the Economics of Policy Options to Address Climate Change
GAO-08-605:
Published: May 9, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 2008.

More Reports

Natural Resources and Environment:

Air Emissions and Electricity Generation at U.S. Power Plants
GAO-12-545R:
Published: Apr 18, 2012. Publicly Released: May 18, 2012.

Climate Change:

Climate Change:

Observations on Options for Selling Emissions Allowances in a Cap-and-Trade Program
GAO-10-377:
Published: Feb 24, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 2010.

Climate Change Policy:

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