Carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 fell by 7% given that many countries around the world have imposed travel restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 contagion cases, the Global Carbon Project reported in its annual assessment in early December. Experts fear, however, that emissions may rebound after the pandemic ends
In 2020, emissions were reduced by an estimated 2.4 billion metric tons. shattering previous records of annual declines. At the end of World War II emissions declined by 0.9 billion metric tons, and by 0.5 billion metric tons in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Transport accounted for the largest share of the global decrease in emission of carbon dioxide, and researchers believe that emissions are down because more people have stayed home and traveled less by car or plane this year. Carbon dioxide is the chief man-made greenhouse gas.
Emissions from aviation were down by 40% this year, while those from road transport fell by half in April. Industrial activity, which accounts for 22% of the global emissions total, was down by 30% in some countries due to their strict measures.
Under the 2015 Paris agreement, emissions would have to be cut by 1 to 2 billion metric tons annually this decade to limit global warming. The goal would be to keep the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.
Since the agreement, however, emissions have grown each year. The UN says they must fall 7.6% annually by 2030 to reach the more ambitious temperature limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In December, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, declared that “Our planet is in a state of climate emergency,” and urged for a transformation of the world economy, flicking the “green switch”, as well as building a sustainable system driven by renewable energy, green jobs and a resilient future.
In 2020, the US had a reduction of 12% in its emissions, while the European Union had 11% respectively. On the other hand, China had a drop of just 1.7%. China’s emissions are more industrial-based than other countries and its industry was less affected than transportation.
One big concern, according to experts, is that emissions may rebound after the pandemic ends, although it is still too early to say how fast they would jump back up. This will depend on how countries power their economic recovery post-pandemic.