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49. Nature Climate Change Paper: Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement

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On May 19, 2020, Nature Climate Change, a monthly journal dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the impacts of climate change, published a paper entitled “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID -19 forced confinement”. 

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Prior to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, carbon dioxide emissions increased by about 1% per year for the last 10 years, with no increase seen in 2019. Renewable energy production was expanding, but it was used in parallel with fossil fuels and did not reach to the point of replacing fossil fuels. On the other hand, emissions from surface transport continued to increase.

Policies due to COVID-19 have drastically changed the world energy demand pattern. Borders were closed and people were forced to stay at home, resulting in less travel and changing consumption patterns. The authors used a combination of energy, activity and policy data available up to the end of April 2020 to estimate the changes in daily emissions during the confinement from the COVID-19 pandemic, and its implications for the growth in CO2 emissions in 2020.

Although real-time CO2 emissions data were not available, the authors devised an alternative approach to estimate country-level emissions based on a confinement index (CI) conceived to capture the extent to which different policies affect emissions, and available daily data of activity for six economic sectors, namely, power, industry, surface transport, public buildings and commerce, residential, and aviation.

By early April 2020, it was estimated that daily global carbon dioxide emissions decreased by -17% (-11 to -25%) compared to the 2019 levels, almost half of which was due to changes in land transportation. At peak times, emissions by country decreased by -26% on average. The impact on annual emissions in 2020 will depend on how long the compulsory confinement and quarantine measures will continue, with a low estimate of -4% (-2 to -7%) if the pre-pandemic conditions are restored by mid-June. If some kind of regulation continues around the world by the end of the year, it is estimated that the emission will be further reduced by -7% (-3 to -13%). It was concluded that postcrisis government actions and economic incentives would shape the direction of global carbon emissions over the coming decades.



Le Quéré, C., Jackson, R.B., Jones, M.W. et al. Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement. Nat. Clim. Change (2020). 


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)

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