Daily global carbon emissions fell by 17% during the worldwide Covid-19 lockdown
Emissions of this level were last observed 14 years ago.
But it’s not likely to last, reveals the new analysis by an international team of researchers.
Their study, Temporary Reduction in Daily Global CO2 Emissions During the Covid-19 Forced Confinement, was published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions,” said Professor Corinne le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, who led the analysis, in a university statement.
“These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary though, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport, or energy systems.
“The extent to which world leaders consider climate change when planning their economic responses post Covid-19 will influence the global CO2 emissions paths for decades to come,” said Le Quéré.
In SA, daily CO2 emissions plunged by 22.4%.
The team’s research shows that emissions from surface transport, such as car journeys, account for 43% of the decrease in global emissions during peak confinement on April 7.
Emissions from industry and from power together account for a further 43% of the decrease in daily global emissions, according to the statement.
Aviation is most impacted by the lockdown, but it only accounts for 3% of global emissions or 10% of the decrease in emissions during the pandemic.
The increase in the use of residential buildings from people working at home only marginally offset the drop in emissions from other sectors.
The research shows that in individual countries, emissions decreased by 26% on average at the peak of their confinement.
Social responses alone, without increases in well-being and/or supporting infrastructure, “will not drive the deep and sustained reductions needed to reach net zero emissions”, reads the statement.
“Opportunities exist to make real, durable changes and be more resilient to future crises, by implementing economic stimulus packages that also help meet climate targets, especially for mobility, which accounts for half the decrease in emissions during confinement,” said Le Quéré.
In cities and suburbs, supporting walking and cycling, and the uptake of electric bikes, “is far cheaper and better for well-being and air quality than building roads, and it preserves social distancing”, she said.
The researchers state the impact of confinement on this year’s annual emissions is projected to be around 4% to 7% compared to last year, depending on the duration of the lockdown and the extent of the recovery.
If pre-pandemic conditions of mobility and economic activity return by the middle of next month, the decline would be around 4%.
If some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of the year, it would be around 7%.