The unprecedented decline in emissions as a result of the coronavirus lockdown is ‘nothing to celebrate’ according to experts.
The executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said: “This decline in emissions, the biggest in history, is the result of economic trauma. It is nothing to celebrate. It is not the result of policy. This decline will be easily erased if the right policy measures are not put in place.”
According to a paper published in Nature Climate Change, average CO2 emissions had only fallen by 17% by the beginning of April due to lockdown measures implemented across the globe.
The data was called ‘sobering stuff’ by professor of carbon management at Edinburgh University, Dave Reay: “All those billions of lockdown sacrifices and privations have made just a small and likely transient dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. COVID-19 is no help on climate change – it is a devastating scourge.”
Joeri Rogelj of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London echoed the same sentiment, saying that ‘none of this is good news for anyone’.
“It is the symptom of a massive economic disruption caused by the pandemic and the measures to contain it. For the climate, this month-long wake in otherwise record-high emissions is entirely insignificant,” said Rogelj.
Rogelj also thinks that it’s possible that the worst is yet to come if governments throw money at the worst offending industries in order to kickstart the economy:
“Massive economic stimulus measures are now being announced and there is a high risk that short-sightedness will lead governments to lose track of the bigger picture by putting their money towards highly polluting sectors that have no place in a zero-pollution and zero-carbon society.”
Leading economists and campaigners have urged governments to pursue a ‘green recovery’ that would stimulate the economy by focusing on projects that reduce climate damage, at the same time as creating jobs.
Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Jenny Bates, said: “When we move forward from this terrible situation, we have to make sure we hold on to the gains we’ve made in better air quality, lower carbon emissions and simple things like hearing birdsong.
“Councils should start by permanently changing how road space is used, allocating more to encourage walking and cycling, and making public transport work for everyone. Now is the time to scrap plans to expand airports and introduce a levy on the most frequent flyers.”
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