Global Carbon Emissions Drop During Lockdowns

During the course of the last year, with people in many countries spending more time at home there has been an unsurprising drop in global carbon emissions.

Quiet life helps

The skies have been quiet from the lack of air travel, and the roads clear. Fewer flights and a reduced number of cars on the road is obviously good for the environment. However, while environmentalists are clearly pleased, once the pandemic is under control the ‘quiet life’ is not going to last.

In April last year when many countries were in lockdown the cut in emissions was at its lowest point for the year. Since then it has crept back. In the UK we’ve seen a yo-yo effect in road use. In lockdowns it plummets, but comes straight back again once out of lockdown.

Unprecedented CO2 emission drop

With the pandemic the drop in carbon emissions is unprecedented. There was an estimated 7% drop in 2020 compared to 2019. However, before the pandemic fossil fuel burning was on the rise, which is the main cause of climate change. It is constantly rising, but in the last decade it has been a slower rise than in prior decades.

Since 1990 global emissions have risen by 61% but pace of growth has slowed down. Some countries are starting to limit their CO2 output. Green policies are being acknowledged and renewable energy is being invested in.

Climate policies

There are over 2000 climate policies in place around the world and we are starting to see the effect of that. For example the Paris agreement in 2016 is a roadmap for countries to cut CO2 emissions and adopt greener policies. The agreement was designed to prevent climate disaster.

As a result of climate policies lots of countries have reduced CO2 emissions from fossil fuels but emissions are still rising in the vast majority of countries. The wealthy nations are trying to lead the way, but not all are at the same stage. They are still responsible for 35% of emissions globally…wealth and emissions go hand in hand.

Looking beyond the pandemic

The pandemic shows we can drastically reduce CO2 emissions. However, no-one is going to agree to living in a lockdown scenario forever. So what can we do?

We can certainly all reduce our travel. If one person makes a stand against driving or flying it has a ripple effect. It raises the importance of climate change to those around us and changes attitudes. Others then drive or fly less as a result. Small changes stack up to make a big change.

Obviously the main post pandemic worry is that the green side of things takes a back seat as economic recovery takes centre stage. However it is still vitally important that we do that with a green focus. It would be fantastic if we not only continue to slow down carbon emission rise, but take stock of the environmental positives to have come out of the pandemic and see what additional individual changes we can make. Driving less and taking fewer flights would certainly be a great start.