Genetic improvement of livestock is a particularly effective technology, producing permanent and cumulative changes in performance. This paper highlights some of the options for including mitigation in livestock breeding schemes, focusing on ruminant species, and details three routes through which genetic improvement can help to reduce emissions per kg product via: (i) improving productivity and efficiency, (ii) reducing wastage in the farming system and (iii) directly selecting on emissions, if or when these are measurable. Selecting on traits that improve the efficiency of the system (e.g. residual feed intake, longevity) will have a favourable effect on the overall emissions from the system. Specific examples of how genetic selection will have a favourable effect on emissions for UK dairy systems are described. The development of breeding schemes that incorporate environmental concerns is both desirable and possible. An example of how economic valuation of public good outcomes can be incorporated into UK dairy selection indices is given. This paper focuses on genetic selection tools using, on the whole, currently available traits and tools. However, new direct and indirect measurement techniques for emissions will improve the potential to reduce emissions by genetic selection. The complexities of global forces on defining selection objectives are also highlighted.