Energy Policy

Understanding the link


Energy Policy and Climate Policy

These two are inextricably linked as we move forward. We cannot address the challenges associated with reducing human-induced climate change without taking a good, long look at our energy policies and the resources on which we depend so heavily. So much of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are tied directly to energy extraction, production, and consumption - as you can see in the image below, nearly 75% - therefore, any efforts to reduce these emissions will necessarily have very real consequences for all facets of the energy industry.

In effect, climate policy IS energy policy.

pie chart showing emissions by sector in the U.S.

Emissions by Sector in the U.S., 2016. Credit: Our World in Data, 2023. Click here to access the raw data and click on the image for a larger version of the visualization.

What are the goals of climate policy? While many countries (and other levels of government) are still trying to figure out what an effective climate policy really means for them, we can broadly explore some of the goals of instituting climate policies, recognizing that no one policy can be all things to all people.

Generally, we can sort climate policy objectives into the following two categories:


  • reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions understood to be responsible for human-induced warming of our climate
  • establish achievable yet rigorous emission reduction schedules
  • transition our fossil-fuel intensive industries to lower carbon alternatives in a timely and cost-effective manner
Interested in learning more about policy to mitigate climate change? Read a discussion paper on Designing Climate Mitigation Policy by Aldy et al. (2009).


  • react to the consequences of current and unavoidable changes
  • provide funding and other support to those people disproportionately affected by the consequences of a changing climate
Want to know more about how we address issues of adaptation through policy? Read the Pew Center on Global Climate Change's report on Adaptation to Climate Change: International Policy Options by Burton et al.(2006).

Addressing climate change has always been a two-fold challenge and will continue to be one. In order to avoid more severe consequences of change in the future, we must look for ways to mitigate our emissions now and moving forward. But mitigation efforts alone are not enough, because the emissions we've already released will inevitably impact the climate and because we are already seeing climate change impacts that we must react to. Adaptation policy is often more complex and less easily quantifiable than mitigation policy, but it's important to understand that together they represent a comprehensive approach to addressing global climate change.