A recently published study found a temporary reduction in daily global carbon dioxide emissions during April.
The researchers compared the emissions to those of April in 2019 and found they were 17 percent lower. These findings, published in the Nature Climate Change, have been attributed to the measures that have been put in place during the COVID-19 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,” said the researchers.
Based on the current state of lockdowns around the world, the researchers estimated that the impact on annual carbon emissions for the year could be between –4% or 7% depending how long lockdown conditions last. Should pre-pandemic conditions return by mid-June, the former will likely apply whereas if lockdowns and restrictions last longer, the latter could be a reality.
The researchers explain that while this is positive, it is unlikely to be lasting if governments don’t make the structural changes to the economic, transport or energy systems which were previously major contributors to carbon emissions.
“Our study reveals how responsive the surface transportation sector’s emissions can be to policy changes and economic shifts. Surface transport accounts for nearly half the decrease in emissions during confinement, and active travel (walking and cycling, including e-bikes) has attributes of social distancing that are likely to be desirable for some time and could help to cut back CO2 emissions and air pollution as confinement is eased,” they said.