Global carbon emissions were down by 17% in April due to Covid-19 induced shutdowns: Study

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 20, 2020

Carbon emission across the globe were cut by 17 per cent owing to global measures to prevent the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study.

The study published in the British journal Nature Climate Change states that the world decreased its carbon emissions by 17 per cent or 17 million tonnes in April at the peak of global shutdowns owing to the pandemic.

“Government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically altered patterns of energy demand around the world. Many international borders were closed and populations were confined to their homes, which reduced transport and changed consumption patterns,” the study said.

“Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by –17% (–11 to –25 for ±1σ) by early April 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels,” it added.

On an average, individual countries brought down their global emissions by 26 per cent at the peak of lockdowns.

For a week in April, carbon dioxide levels in the United States were down by 30.7 per cent. China, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gases emitter slashed its carbon pollution by nearly a quarter or 23.9 per cent during its lockdown in February.

The study analyzed these numbers based on six economic sectors responsible for majority of emissions. These included power segment which accounted for 44.3 per cent of global fossil CO2 emissions, the industry at 22.4 per cent, surface transport with a share of 20.6 per cent, public buildings and commerce with 4.2 per cent, residential at 5.6 per cent and aviation accounting for 2.8 per cent emissions.

As for the decrease in emissions, land transport accounted for 43 per cent of the decrease, while the power generation segment saw a decrease of of19 per cent. Industry and aviation accounted for 25 per cent and 10 per cent of the decrease respectively.

The numbers, however, are only for the month of April. The overall status of the annual carbon emissions depend highly on the lessening of restrictions and restarting of economic activity. These levels will increase once things return to normal.

“The impact on 2020 annual emissions depends on the duration of the confinement, with a low estimate of –4% (–2 to –7%) if prepandemic conditions return by mid-June, and a high estimate of –7% (–3 to –13%) if some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of 2020,” read the report.

“Government actions and economic incentives postcrisis will likely influence the global CO2 emissions path for decades,” it further added.

Published on May 20, 2020

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