With global greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise, it’s clear that we need significant, society-wide changes if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. While personal lifestyle changes do help at the margins, far-reaching policy interventions by governments may offer the best hope for deep, rapid cuts in emissions across entire countries and economies.

Governments have a wide array of regulatory powers they could use to drive large-scale emissions reductions, from caps and standards on industrial polluters to economy-wide carbon pricing schemes. Analyses show that ambitious policies, consistently implemented over the next decade, could enable countries to meet their pledges under the Paris Agreement and cut global net emissions to zero by mid-century. Here, we’ll look at some of the most impactful emissions-cutting policies national and regional governments should prioritize.

Caps & Performance Standards For Industry

Industry, including manufacturing, materials production, and resource extraction, accounts for around one-third of global greenhouse gas output. How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from this? Setting strict caps on pollution from these sectors, along with incentives for going below the limits, can spur rapid innovations in clean technology while lowering emissions. Governments can also set steadily tightening emissions intensity standards for industries. For example, the EU sets legal CO2 limits on automakers’ new car fleets based on vehicle weight, driving down average car pollution.

Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Globally, subsidies for oil, gas, and coal amount to over half a trillion dollars a year. Phasing out these subsidies, while redirecting support to clean energy projects would help end deforestation, drive energy efficiency, make renewables more cost-competitive, and significantly lower CO2 outputs according to IMF estimates. France, for example, recently ended subsidies on oil production. Leaders of the G20 have repeatedly pledged to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies but with limited follow through so far.

Incentivizing Renewable Energy Deployment

Governments can use renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs, tax credits, and other measures to support rapid growth of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. Such policies help overcome cost barriers hindering wider adoption of clean tech. Targeted incentives at federal, state, and local levels in countries like Germany, China, and the U.S. have successfully accelerated renewables deployment. Continuing these supportive policies will help renewables become the dominant electricity source globally in the next two decades.

Implementing Carbon Pricing Mechanisms

One of the most impactful emissions reduction policies is making polluters pay for their carbon output via taxes, cap-and-trade schemes, or other pricing mechanisms. Around the world, governments at national and regional levels are putting increasing costs on CO2 emissions, with positive results. Bipartisan support for a U.S. carbon tax could encourage rapid de-carbonization across sectors. Globally, the World Bank estimates carbon prices of $50-$100 per ton could enable the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5C.

The Path Forward

Ambitious, multifaceted government climate policies like these not only mitigate the worst climate dangers, but they also spur job growth and health benefits from reduced fossil fuel pollution. While no silver bullet solution for global emissions exists, strong policy signals from the world’s major economies could set us on a path to a prosperous, net zero greenhouse gas future. But governments must act decisively in the next decade if we hope to limit warming to safe levels. Contact your political representatives to urge them to support impactful climate policies today.