Global carbon emissions lowest level in 14 years during lockdown

The Study in journal Nature Climate Change found global carbon dioxide emissions fell by as much as 17 per cent due to lockdowns imposed around the world in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The research revealed that daily CO2 emissions in April temporarily dropped to levels last seen in 2006.

The data analysed daily CO2 emissions across 69 countries, 50 US states, 30 Chinese provinces, six economic sectors, and three levels of confinement, using data from electricity use and mobility tracking services.

The study also found that global emissions could fall by up to 7 per cent this year, depending on life post-lockdown and social distancing measures.

The drop represents the biggest fall in carbon emissions since records began.

Last year, the world emitted around 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per day by burning fossil fuels and cement production, the research found.

Early last month, emissions fell to 83 million tonnes per day. Some countries’ emissions dropped by as much as 26 per cent on average during the peak of confinement.

If pre-pandemic conditions were to return by mid-June around the world, emissions could decline by a more modest 4 per cent compared to 2019.

Carbon emissions fell as much as 17 per cent during global lockdowns according to Nature Climate Change. (Chris Leboutillier)

This would still be the largest single annual decrease in emissions since the end of World War II.

A UN report last year said emissions needed to drop by 2.7 per cent a year, keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and 7.6 per cent a year to keep below 1.5C.

Corinne Le Quéré, lead author at the University of East Anglia said: “Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions.

“These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary, however, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport, or energy systems.”

Previous analysis of data from the International Energy Agency revealed emissions were due to decline from lockdowns.

China saw the largest drop in emissions in April, followed by the United States, Europe and India.

In the countries with the strictest lockdown restrictions, emissions from aviation plunged 75 per cent in early April, while emissions from land transport fell by 50 per cent and from power generation by 15 per cent.

Emissions from industry declined by around 35 per cent, while those from residential buildings increased by 5 per cent.

The impact of containment measures also led to a huge reduction in air pollution in the form of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions released by cars, aeroplanes and other combustion engines.

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