Emissions fall abruptly in lockdown but still massive challenge to embed change

At first glance it seems encouraging. A new study showing carbon dioxide emissions have fallen significantly in April and likely to be repeated in May.

Data by researchers at University of East Anglia suggest that last month they fell 17% year on year. In pockets some fell even more.

The UK for example by 31%. Over in Australia 28.3%. Globally the average worked out somewhere in the region of 26%.

But for all that is in the right direction, it means there’s still a near three quarters reduction needed if the planet is to hit zero. That is the target set under the Paris Agreement to prevent the planet heating to catastrophic levels.

And with nations already beginning to move out of lockdown in places the fear is not only will these reductions be temporary as business cranks up production to recover lost time and revenue, creating more emissions as they do.

The trick now will be how to ensure that doesn’t happen, that the small gains are retained by sweeping changes so we never return to where we were before.

The study is published in the Nature Climate Change journal.

It states:

The economic crisis associated with COVID-19 is markedly different from previous economic crises in that it is more deeply anchored in constrained individual behaviour. At present it is unclear how long and deep the crisis will be, and how the recovery path will look, and therefore how CO2 emissions will be affected. Keeping track of evolving CO2 emissions can help inform government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid locking future emissions trajectories in carbon-intensive pathways.

Among the authors, Corinne Le Quere, said such a significant drop had never been seen before. But she warned it may not last.

As governments wrestle with COVID-19, the eyes of the world re looking at how they will look to mitigate its effects through people, their environment and what comes next.

FURTHER READING 

Carbon emissions are falling sharply due to Coronavirus. But not for long.

Lockdown triggers dramatic fall in global carbon figures

Main image credit: wal_172619 /Pixabay

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