The decline in global carbon emissions due to the global lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, which was recorded in April at 17%, will unlikely last if governments do not apply long-term policies to curb emissions, research conducted by a team of scientists showed.
According to a new article; Temporary Reduction in Daily Global CO2 Emissions During the COVID-19 Forced Confinement, by a team of international scientists, daily carbon emissions decreased by 17 million tons globally during the lockdown.
The team analyzed government policies on confinement for 69 countries that are responsible for 97% of global CO2 emissions and found that emissions fell to levels recorded in 2006.
Aviation is the economic sector 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 research shows the increase in the use of residential buildings from people working at home only marginally offset the drop in emissions from other sectors.
The analysis also found that social responses alone without increases in wellbeing and supporting infrastructure, would not drive the deep and sustained reductions needed to reach net-zero emissions.
Professor Corinne Le Quere at the University of East Anglia, who led the analysis, said that population confinement that has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions are only likely temporary, “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," Le Quere noted.
She said that opportunities exist to make real, durable changes for more resilience against 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.
According to the study, the impact of confinement on 2020 annual emissions is projected to be around 4% to 7% compared to 2019, depending on the duration of the lockdown and the extent of the recovery.
The analysis estimates that if pre-pandemic conditions of mobility and economic activity return by mid-June, the decline would be around 4%, but would increase to 7% if some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of the year.
This drop is comparable to the amount of annual emission reductions needed year-on-year across decades to achieve the climate objectives of the UN Paris Agreement.
“The drop in emissions is substantial but illustrates the challenge of reaching our Paris climate commitments. We need systemic change through green energy and electric cars, not temporary reductions from enforced behavior," Professor Rob Jackson of Stanford University and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, who co-authored the analysis, said.
The authors of the study also warned that the rush for economic stimulus packages must not make future emissions higher by delaying New Green Deals or weakening emissions standards.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya