Australia backs technology in new carbon emissions plan

Katie Ramirez
May 21, 2020

In the US, emissions dropped by about a third for a couple of weeks in April, a development that Robert Jackson, a co-author of the study and a Guggenheim fellow at Stanford University, told Grist was "absolutely unprecedented".

South Africa's carbon emissions dropped by a quarter of a million tonnes each day after March 27, when the national lockdown came into effect.

Previous estimates of emissions reductions due to COVID-19 said the pandemic would take an 8 percent bite out of global emissions this year.

The world cut its daily carbon dioxide emissions by 17%, or 17 million tonnes, in April when the pandemic-induced lockdown was at its peak, a new study found on Tuesday.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed lockdown measures in 69 countries, which account for 97% of global carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the researchers estimate that the year-end reduction will end up being somewhere between 4% and 7%, depending on the speed and scope of the reopening of economies around the world.

A cut to manufacturing activity that spread to the United States, Europe and India resulted in a substantial cut to energy use across both electricity generation and manufacturing. Similarly, emissions from industry and power together accounted for a further 43 per cent of the decrease in daily global emissions, while 10 per cent of the fall was driven by the massive contraction in the number of flights from the global aviation industry.

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The researchers said that the fall in emissions was only slightly offset by increases in residential emissions, as people work from home increasing demand on residential energy use.

Researchers have laid out in the paper that emissions from surface transport - cars, busses, and other motor vehicles - account for almost half (43 percent) of this fall in emissions during peak confinement (on 7 April). For context, the Washington Post notes that a United Nations report last year said emissions must fall 7.6% a year starting in 2020 to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate. A 60 per cent fall in aviation activity in April, compared to the same time past year, saw emissions fall by 1.7 million tonnes.

Such low global emission levels have not been recorded since 2006.

"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", Le Quéré added.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic triggered worldwide restrictions on movement, global greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing steadily year on year.

Emissions from industry declined by around 35 per cent, with a lack of data causing some uncertainty.

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