Global CO2 emissions dive 8.8% in first half of 2020

The drop is larger than during the financial crisis of 2008, according to a report

The Big Zero report

Global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 8.8% within the first half of 2020, compared to the same period last year.

That’s according to a new study by an international team of researchers, which estimates the decline in carbon dioxide emissions, a total of 1,551 million tonnes, is larger than during the financial crisis of 2008, the oil crisis of 1979 and World War II.

The scientific team suggests the decline of daily global emissions reached a peak in April, but emissions began to recover later this month and in May, as economic activities resumed in China and parts of Europe.

In June, the power sector’s emissions were only 1.1% lower in 2020 than in 2019, compared to being 9.7% lower in April, according to the analysis.

The findings of the report, which was published in Nature Communications, reveal the largest drop in emissions occurred in the US, followed by the EU and the UK and were observed mostly in transportation and aviation.

Zhu Liu, the Lead Author from the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said: “In April, at the height of the first wave of corona infections, when most major countries shut down their public life and parts of their economy, emissions even declined by 16.9%.

“Overall, the various outbreaks resulted in emission drops that we normally see only on a short-term basis on holidays such as Christmas or the Chinese Spring Festival.”

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, commented: “While the carbon dioxide drop is unprecedented, decreases in human activities cannot be the answer. Instead, we need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems. Individual behaviour is certainly important, but what we really need to focus on is reducing the carbon intensity of our global economy.”

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