Mitigating climate change mainly involves reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are entering the atmosphere. We can attempt this by:

  • reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases, e.g. by burning less fossil fuels, or by capturing the greenhouse gases released in burning these fuels and storing the gases somewhere
  • increasing the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants, soils and the oceans.

To achieve the first of these means addressing a wide range of human practices that emit greenhouse gases.

Here we have listed a wide range of currently available options for reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030. This is adapted from a table in the Working Group III contribution to the IPPC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which was released in April 2022 (source table is figure SPM.7). In the table, the IPCC estimate the potential contribution that each action could make to emission reductions by 2030 as well as the estimated costs (in US dollars) of each action.


  • Reduce fossil fuel use (coal, oil, gas)
  • Increase energy generation from wind, solar, bioelectricity, hydropower and geothermal
  • Increase nuclear energy generation
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • Reduce methane emissions from coal mining and oil and gas production

Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU)

  • Carbon sequestration in agriculture
  • Reduce methane and nitrous oxide emission in agriculture
  • Reduce conversion of forests and other ecosystems
  • Restore ecosystems, including reforestation and creation of new forests (afforestation)
  • Improve sustainable forest management
  • Reduce food loss and food waste
  • Shift to balanced, sustainable, healthy diets


  • Avoid demand for energy services
  • Use more efficient lighting, appliances and equipment
  • Create new buildings with high energy performance
  • Increase onsite renewable production and use
  • Improve existing building stock
  • Enhance the use of wood products


  • Switch to fuel efficient / electric vehicles, including buses
  • Shift to public transportation
  • Shift to bikes and e-bikes
  • Increase energy efficiency in shipping and aviation
  • Shift to biofuels


  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Increase material efficiency
  • Recycle more
  • Switch to greener fuels
  • Substitute use of cement with other materials
  • Reducte non-CO2 emissions


  • Reduce emissions of fluorinated gas
  • Reduce emissions of methane from solid waste and from wastewater


It seems a lot can be done to mitigate climate change. Unfortunately, things are not so simple. There are many reasons why we are not doing enough of the above.



  1. From your experience, do you think we are doing enough of the things listed? Think about the reasons why we may not be doing enough. For example, if you think people are not making a big enough effort to use public transport instead of cars and lorries, why do you think this is? You may also think about ways to improve the situation.
  2. There are many efforts - by governments, non-governmental organisations, companies and individuals - which try to encourage us to change our lifestyles so that we emit less greenhouse gases. Write down any you can think of or have tried yourself (such as 'walk to school' or 'eat less meat' campaigns). Or, search the web for such initiatives. Take one scheme and decide which sector it fits into (e.g. transport, energy supply). Write down in your own words what the scheme is trying to achieve (e.g. encouraging more recycling, or buying more locally-produced food).
  3. Think about ways you could encourage friends, family members or other people to change their behaviours in ways that would reduce our impact on the climate, e.g. cycling and walking more, or buying fewer new products.
  4. Think about the reasons why people don't always take the actions necessary to deal with climate change.

Emissions targets

Governments have a key role to play in climate change mitigation. They can develop policies and schemes to encourage people and businesses to adopt climate change mitigation measures. Many of the world's governments have set targets to help this. In the UK, The Climate Change Act 2008 established a new approach to managing and responding to climate change in the UK. The Act created a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases to at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This was one of the most challenging targets set by a national government.

One of the most well-known climate change targets is the Kyoto Protocol. Adopted in 1997 as a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol mades a legally binding commitment on participating countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% relative to 1990 levels, during the period 2008-2012. There were 193 participants to the protocol, including 37 of the world's industrialised nations, together with the European Community, but the USA was not one of them.

Pollution from a power station

The Kyoto Protocol was seen as a first step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but globally, emissions of carbon dioxide are increasing, not decreasing, as these news reports written 10 years apart show:

Some scientists believe that to avoid the worst consequences of climate change (so-called 'dangerous climate change') we must limit global warming to 2 °C over pre-industrial levels. This would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels of around 80%, as the UK is committed to. In 2015, many countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to keep the global temperature increase between 1.5 °C and 2 °C.

Since then, scientists have urged nations to aim for a 1.5 °C warming limit. The Glasgow Climate Pact that resulted from the COP26 UN conference in 2021 aims to keep that ambition alive, if it is backed by urgent, concerted action.