The coronavirus global lockdown has had a drastic effect on daily carbon emissions, falling by 17% across the globe, according to new scientific analysis.
The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that daily emissions decreased by 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) – globally during the peak of the confinement measures in early April compared to mean daily levels in 2019, dropping to levels last observed in 2006.
The team analysed government policies on confinement for 69 countries responsible for 97% of global CO2 emissions.
Emissions from surface transport, such as car journeys, account for almost half (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.
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 increase in the use of residential buildings from people working at home only marginally offset the drop in emissions from other sectors.
In individual countries, emissions decreased by 26% on average at the peak of their confinement.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia led the analysis. She said: ‘Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions. 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.
‘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.
‘For example in cities and suburbs, supporting walking and cycling, and the uptake of electric bikes, is far cheaper and better for wellbeing and air quality than building roads, and it preserves social distancing.’
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