What are Emissions Standards?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Emissions generally refer to various pollutants released into the atmosphere. Such pollutants can come from a number of sources, such as cars, factories, and boats. Regulations that aim to limit the amount of pollution emitted are commonly referred to as emissions standards. Such regulations may focus on gases such as nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide, and carbon dioxide.

It is commonly recognized that pollution negatively affects the planet and the health of the people on it. To diminish the adverse effects caused by human behavior, emissions standards have been set by many countries. One government may use another’s regulations as a model. In some cases, treaties, such as the Montreal Protocol for Ozone Depleting Substances, may be signed by many agreeing nations. However, emissions standards are not usually international.

Regulations are usually set by individual nations. Some emissions standards are set by a nation’s federal body. Others may be drafted by more localized governmental bodies, such as those at the state or provincial level. In the Europe Union (EU), emissions standards generally dictate how certain issues should be handled in all countries that are part of the Union. While member countries must at least meet those standards, they are not generally prevented from setting more stringent regulations.


Controlling emissions often involves developing rules that affect the way people do things. In many countries, factories have been required to remodel and develop alternative production strategies to comply with regulations. Manufacturers of automobiles have been required to build them differently to make them compliant with certain laws where they will be sold.

When emissions standards are not adhered to there can be consequences. In California, for example, there is a special commission called the California Air Resource Board (CARB). If automobiles do not meet CARB’s standards, they are not allowed to be sold in California, which is one of the world’s largest automobile markets. Other places in the world, such as Shanghai, China, have similar regulations and restrictions, which can greatly impact a company’s financial success.

Emissions standards may seem like a burden, but they can be a benefit to consumers. In the United States, for example, efforts to cut emissions have led to authorities focusing on fuel efficiency. Standards have been developed that require that cars must be manufactured so each tank of gas allows the driver to go farther. This can help not only the environment but also people who are interested in saving money.


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