The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions reductions in 2020. According to researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Exeter, and the Global Carbon Project, this is a record drop.
The drop has become significant compared to previous years:
0.5 tons in 1981 and 2009,
0.7 tons 1992,
0.9 tons in 1945.
This means that in 2020 CO2 emissions will be approximately 34 GtCO2, which is 7% lower than in 2019.
Transport emissions have dropped the most. The number of ground transport passengers, such as drivers, fell by about half at the COVID quarantine peak. By December 2020, emissions from road transport and aviation were still below 2019 levels by about 10% and 40%, respectively, due to continuing restrictions.
Emission reductions are more pronounced in the US (-12%) and EU countries (-11%), where COVID-19 restrictions have accelerated coal emissions reduction. The least visible changes are in China (-1.7%): since the country’s restrictions were introduced at the beginning of the year, the economy had more time to recover.
However, the researchers warn that it is too early to tell how much emissions will recover during 2021 and beyond, as the impact of emissions in the future will depend on how the economy is stimulated in response to the lockdown.