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Cutting Carbon Pollution

Cutting climate pollution means mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The GWSA defines "mitigation" as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, as well as the preservation and enhancement of natural systems to sequester and store carbon, in order to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Emission Reductions - Where are we now?

Vermont's efforts to mitigate climate change reflect how different sectors of the economy contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Our greenhouse gas emissions are highest from transporting goods and people, and the heating of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Emissions from electricity, agricultural practices, and industrial activity are significantly lower, however all sources of emissions are part of a wholistic strategy to cost-effectively mitigate climate change.

There is no single pathway or strategy that will ensure the necessary transitions required to reduce our emissions. Action is being taken on multiple fronts to reach the required emission reductions in the GWSA. Most importantly, the policies and programs outlined in each of the sectors represent a coordinated approach to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing approaches that are equitable and seek to ensure accessibility for all Vermonters


The transportation sector includes emissions from cars, trucks, buses, trains, and aircraft. Transportation emissions make up the largest share (39% in 2018) of the state's total greenhouse gas emissions, with the vast majority coming from gasoline and diesel used for fueling cars and trucks. While reducing transportation emissions is a challenge in a rural state like Vermont, the sector also presents the greatest opportunities for reductions. The three key strategies in this sector are:

  • Transition to cleaner vehicles and fuels – making electric vehicle ownership more practical by improving the charging network, and more affordable particularly for moderate-income households
  • Reduce the total miles being travelled – through improved transit, and facilitating non-motorized travel options such as biking and walking
  • Increase the efficiency of all vehicles – making each unit of fuel go further

Residential/Commercial/Industrial Fuel Use (RCI)

Emissions from this sector are primarily from heating - and to a lesser but growing extent cooling - indoor living and working spaces as well as for cooking and water heating. The sector accounted for 34% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, second only to transportation. Reducing emissions in this sector through large-scale weatherization and transitioning to cleaner fuels and high-efficiency heat-pump systems result in other benefits such as reduced costs and improved air quality.


Vermont is a rural state, with 94% of Vermont’s land base comprised of natural and working lands; 12% of Vermont’s land is in active agricultural production. Farmers in Vermont manage 20% of the land, including 500,000 acres in cropland and pasture, and 500,000 acres in forestland. Ensuring that Vermont farms maintain and improve viability - so land is maintained in this natural and working state and not lost to development - is a cornerstone of Vermont’s climate smart agricultural approach to address climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Vermont include mainly emissions from animal and crop production.  Methane (CH4) emissions from the digestive processes of animals and manure management, and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural soils are the main sources of greenhouse gases in the sector.  Vermont farmers are motivated to be part of the climate change solutions and many already include climate mitigation as a major goal in managing their farm.  Vermont farmers are already providing significant GHG mitigation benefit to Vermont through the climate co-benefits provided through their adoption of agricultural conservation practices that improve water quality and opportunities to quantify and strengthen this work is an ongoing priority for state government.

Industrial Processes

Emissions from the industrial processes sector in Vermont come mainly from refrigerants used in air conditioner and refrigeration units and from semiconductor manufacturing. Unlike the transportation, and residential, commercial, and industrial sectors which are dominated by carbon dioxide, emissions from industrial processes are primarily fluorinated gases, many of which are which are significantly more potent than CO2 in their potential to warm the planet.  Efforts to phase out and transition away from these potent greenhouse gases is already underway but needs to remain a priority. The sector accounted for 6.5% the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.


The state’s electric generation sector is already relatively low carbon, contributing only 2.1% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, and will be nearly carbon free and largely renewable by 2030. Keeping Vermont’s electric supply affordable and increasingly carbon free and renewable will provide all Vermonters the opportunity to transition to low emission electricity as a fuel source for transportation and heating. Developing and maintaining a strong, reliable, and flexible electric grid at both the distribution and bulk transmission levels is critical as Vermonters and other New Englanders will increasingly rely upon electricity to serve their energy needs. In addition, work continues to advance understanding of the broader life cycle emissions associated with the current electricity generation portfolio and of new generation sources.

Waste Management

Emissions of greenhouse gases included in the waste sector are from both landfills and wastewater systems and include methane and nitrous oxide which are both more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of their warming potential. Carbon dioxide is considered a natural biogenic emission and is not included in the totals for the sector. When waste breaks down in a landfill or in a wastewater treatment system, gases are released which are generally emitted to the atmosphere. Reducing the amount of waste generated through recycling, reducing the number of products consumed and thrown out, keeping organic materials out of landfills, and capturing and burning the gases that are released to use them for the production of energy are several of the strategies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the sector. Emissions are approximately one half from wastewater and one half from solid waste and were 1.6% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.