Potential Solutions For Reducing Greenhouse Gas & Carbon Emissions In The Industrial Sector

The industrial sector is among the sectors that emit the most greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide globally.

In this guide, we look at potential options/solutions for reducing emissions from the industrial sector and industrial activities.


Summary – Solutions For Reducing Industrial Sector Emissions

Includes sub industries such as manufacturing, food processing, mining, and construction (iron, steel, and cement production are some specific examples)

Emissions can be direct and indirect 

Direct emissions come from power and heat, as well as chemical reactions for manufacturing and fabrication of goods and raw materials. Emissions also come from leaks (such as natural gas mining leaks)

Indirect emissions come from power plants which supply the power for industrial processes (fossil fuel mainly)

When direct and indirect emissions are combined, industry is the biggest emitter in the US economy

Solutions for reducing emissions may include …

Increase in energy efficiency – for industrial technology, systems and equipment (for lighting, heating, and so on)

Fuel switching – to fuel that provides necessary power, but is lower carbon e.g. natural gas over coal, and eventually renewables (and possibly nuclear)

Recycling and re-using materials where feasible, compared to using virgin materials – metals are a good example of this, and also glass (using glass cullet can save a lot of energy at the smelting and fabrication stage)

Training for industrial workers to reduce occurrence of emission leaks (especially of F gases)

Measuring and tracking the carbon footprint of the biggest emitting factories and businesses or supply chains

Introduce (but be cautious with) carbon capping and emissions standards for factories, along with incentives for those meet carbon targets

Consider carbon capture and storage for industrial processes with no low emission alternative – this is a real possibility – some industrial processes may have no low carbon alternative or process.

For methane emissions specifically, focus oil and gas production, and – reduce leaks as well as overall emissions

In China specifically (China is the largest annual emitting country in the world right now), most of China’s energy and coal use came from the industrial sector, with 67.9 percent of the country’s energy use and 54.2 percent of its coal use due to manufacturing, agriculture, and construction. In the industrial sector in China, six industries – electricity generation, steel, non-ferrous metals, construction materials, oil processing and chemicals – account for nearly 70% of energy use. Construction-related activities are among the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions in China – particularly the production of cement and steel 


*Note – every country has a different greenhouse gas emission profile (because their industries are all different sizes, and they might have different production processes to each other). The above are general solutions, but, a greenhouse gas solution plan should be put together for each individual country, state/province, or city. China and the US are of particular significance as they are currently the two biggest annual emitters of GHGs. But, we could also focus on the countries with the highest industrial sector emissions as well.


Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions By All Sectors, & In The Industrial Sector Specifically

Read more in this guide about the industries that emit the most greenhouse gases and CO2 – both globally, and in individual countries.

As one excerpt … 

In 2010, the total global greenhouse gas emissions by sector globally, measured in gigagrams of carbon-dioxide equivalents (CO₂e), were:

  • Total – 50.58 million
  • Energy – 23.24 million
  • Land Use Sources – 5.54 million
  • Transport – 5.54 million
  • Agriculture – 5.08 million
  • Commercial & Residential – 3.74 million
  • Industry – 3.47 million
  • Waste – 1.45 million
  • Forestry – 1.18 million
  • International Bunkers – 1.08 million
  • Other Sources – 267,609.41 thousand

– ourworldindata.org

But, as mentioned, each country has a different emissions share by sector, so look at individual country greenhouse gas numbers too (and not just the numbers of one country, or global numbers). Also, note that different sectors emit different types of GHGs in different quantities (e.g. methane from agriculture needs to be considered).


Potential Options/Solutions For Reducing Greenhouse Gas & CO2 Emissions In Industry & Industrial Activities

EPA.gov outlines some of the following solutions (paraphrased):

  • Energy Efficiency – upgrading to more efficient industrial technology [e.g. to light and heat factories or to run equipment]
  • Fuel Switching – switching to fuels that provide the required energy for operations but have lower emissions [e.g. using natural gas instead of coal, and potentially looking at supplementing energy supplies with solar and other renewables.]
  • Recycling – Producing industrial products from materials that are recycled or renewable, rather than producing new products from raw materials. [e.g. Using scrap steel and scrap aluminum as opposed to smelting new aluminum or forging new steel]
  • Training & Awareness – Making companies and workers aware of the steps to reduce or prevent emissions leaks from equipment. [e.g. Instituting handling policies and procedures for ‘F gases’ that reduce occurrences of accidental releases and leaks from containers and equipment.]


thebalancesmb.com mentions these potential solutions in industry:

  • Measuring carbon footprint of factories, warehouses, work yards, sites and other industrial workplaces
  • Carbon capping
  • Reducing energy use in buildings in terms of materials they are made of and the energy machinery uses
  • Rewarding those who meet carbon targets
  • + other options 


  • [To reduce emissions in industry … focus on] Energy efficiency, fuel switching, combined heat and power, use of renewable energy, and the more efficient use and recycling of materials.
  • Many industrial processes have no existing low-emission alternative and will require carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions over the long term.
  • Oil and gas production is the United States’ largest manmade source of methane, the second biggest driver of climate change – To reduce methane emissions … operators of new oil and gas wells [should] find and repair leaks; capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells; and limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps, and from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers

– c2es.org 


Emissions Breakdown, & Emission Trends In The Industrial Sector

It’s important to know information such as the prevalent greenhouse gas, exactly where emissions are coming from (the source), and trends over time in a sector.


In the US:

  • Industry includes the goods and raw materials we use every day
  • The greenhouse gases emitted during industrial production are split into two categories
  • Direct emissions that are produced at the facility [direct emissions are produced by burning fuel for power or heat, through chemical reactions, and from leaks from industrial processes or equipment. Most direct emissions come from the consumption of fossil fuels for energy]
  • Indirect emissions that occur off site, but are associated with the facility’s use of energy [indirect emissions are produced by burning fossil fuel at a power plant to make electricity, which is then used by an industrial facility to power industrial buildings and machinery]
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials.

Read more at https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#industry


Also in the US:

  • About a fifth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from industry [e.g. such as manufacturing, food processing, mining, and construction]
  • These direct emissions result from diverse processes, including the on-site combustion of fossil fuels for heat and power, non-energy use of fossil fuels, and chemical processes used in iron, steel, and cement production.
  • In addition, industry generates indirect emissions from the centrally generated electricity it consumes. The industrial sector makes up about one quarter of total U.S. electricity sales. If direct and indirect emissions are combined, the industrial sector is the largest emitting sector in the U.S. economy, responsible for 29.3 percent of total emissions.

– c2es.org



1. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

2. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#industry

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/industries-sectors-that-emit-the-most-greenhouse-gases-carbon-dioxide/

4. https://ourworldindata.org/how-much-will-it-cost-to-mitigate-climate-change 

5. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/reducing-co2-emissions-3157794 

6. https://www.c2es.org/content/regulating-industrial-sector-carbon-emissions/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/breakdown-energy-use-production-in-china-now-future/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/summary-greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-china-past-present-future/

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