Record fall in CO2 emissions forecast for 2020

29th April 2020


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Thomas Roberts

The largest ever annual decline in CO2 emissions is expected this year as the coronavirus pandemic slashes transport use, electricity demand and industrial activity across the world.

Forecasts by Carbon Brief suggest an emission reduction equivalent to 4% of the global total recorded in 2019, which would be more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war.

Although the researchers said their predictions are “necessarily uncertain“ due to the unknown length of lockdowns, they expect the pandemic to cause emission cuts in the region of 1,600m tonnes of CO2 this year. However, even this would not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as envisaged by the Paris Agreement.

Carbon Brief warned that global emissions would need to fall by more than 6% every year this decade in order to limit warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

“To put it another way, atmospheric carbon levels are expected to increase again this year, even if CO2 emissions cuts are greater still,“ the researchers said. “Rising CO2 concentrations – and related global warming – will only stabilise once annual emissions reach net-zero.“

This comes after the International Energy Agency stressed that a decline in global emissions will not be sustainable without coordinated changes to government policy.

Various other experts have also warned that emissions will quickly rebound unless the response to the pandemic can create lasting, structural changes towards net-zero emissions.

Meanwhile, a coalition of European politicians, business leaders and NGOs has written to the EU calling for unprecedented 'green recovery investment packages' to reboot economies once the health crisis has passed.

The 180 signatories, which include executives from PepsiCo and Microsoft, warned that the world faces a deeper economic shock than during the last financial crash, and that “what worked for the 2008 financial crisis may not be sufficient to overcome this one“.

The coalition pointed to the European Commission's 'Green Deal' plan as a blueprint, and urged policymakers to use COVID-19 as an opportunity by “enshrining the fight against climate change as the core of the economic strategy“.

“COVID-19 will not make climate change and nature degradation go away. We will not win the fight against COVID-19 without a solid economic response,“ the letter says. “Let's not oppose those two battles, but let's fight and win them at the same time.“

Picture credit: Alamy

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