Daily CO2 Emissions Plunge During Global Lockdowns

Friday, 22 May, 2020

Australia's world-leading sustainable resources sector has been at the forefront of developing and deploying the low emissions technology which is central to Australian and global efforts to address climate change.

Research distributed in the diary Nature Climate Change uncovered that day by day Carbon dioxide outflows on 7 April.

That is still the biggest annual drop in carbon emissions since World War II.

"As different countries and sectors recover, it is unclear if activity levels will return to normal levels or if we may see permanent shifts in behaviour", said Glen Peters at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Norway, which took part in the study.

Daily emissions dropped 17% in April as nations around the world went into lockdown mode, according to the study in the Nature Climate Change journal. Emissions related to household use rose by 5%, compared to the 2019 daily average.

A second, larger, fall in emissions was observed throughout April, followed the wider outbreak of Covid-19, which shut down economic activity across a much wider range of countries.

China saw the biggest drop in emanations in April, trailed by the United States, Europe, and India. Almost half of those emissions were from "surface transport", like vehicle rides. Coronavirus has inadvertently achieved a reversal in carbon emissions.

It provides an interesting insight into how emissions may be reduced in the transport sector where cuts have otherwise proven elusive. Emissions from surface transport fell less sharply, by about 36 per cent. Power generation and industry accounted for about 86 per cent of the total decline in emissions.

The paper details how the restrictions have seen daily global greenhouse gas emissions fall by as as much as 17 per cent in April, compared to the same time a year ago.

Major sources of carbon emissions-cars, planes, factories-all stood still as governments implemented lockdowns to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to their projections on the impacts of easing restrictions around the globe, the total emissions for 2020 will only amount to a four to seven percent reduction on the 2019 figure.

The aviation industry had a marked decline, with carbon emission-reducing by more than 21 percent from January to April.

Will they step up and use the stimulus spending to achieve the goals of the UN's Paris Climate Agreement to keep temperatures to well below 2 deg C and net-zero Carbon dioxide emissions by 2050? Without more systemic and long-lasting changes to how society operates, pollution could come back with a vengeance once the pandemic subsides.

The results also showed that after an eight percent drop in emissions due to the lockdown, emissions would one again increase sharply as restrictions would end in within the year will have a V-shaped recovery.

Drastic changes at both economic and social levels - that's what's needed to truly tackle climate change and lower emissions levels before it's too late.