ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) are already widely used for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and their potential role in other disease states has become increasingly recognized. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is characterized by pathological inflammatory processes involving the lung parenchyma, airways and vascular bed. The aim of the present review is to outline the role of the RAS (renin–angiotensin system) in the pathogenesis of COPD, including reference to results from fibrotic lung conditions and pulmonary hypertension. The review will, in particular, address the emerging evidence that ACE inhibition could have a beneficial effect on skeletal muscle function and cardiovascular co-morbidity in COPD patients. The evidence to support the effect of RAS blockade as a novel therapeutic approach in COPD will be discussed.