Despite lower pollution in countries battling COVID-19 such as China and Italy, world carbon dioxide emissions for the year to date are higher than those of last year. Experts have also warned of a sudden dramatic rise in emissions when the emergency recedes, as occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has warned that reduced emissions arising from the economic crisis caused by coronavirus are no substitute for climate action.
Efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have slashed economic activity and resulted in localised improvements in air quality.
“However, it is too early to assess the implications for concentrations of greenhouse gases that are responsible for long-term climate change. “Carbon dioxide levels at key observing stations so far this year have been higher than last year”, explains a statement issued by the WMO.
“Despite local reductions in pollution and improvement in air quality, it would be irresponsible to downplay the enormous global health challenges and loss of life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas.
“However, now is the time to consider how to use economic stimulus packages to support a long-term switch to more environmentally and climate-friendly business and personal practices”.
Taalas added that past experience suggests that emissions declines during economic crises are followed by a rapid upsurge and that it was necessary to change that trajectory.
“The world needs to demonstrate the same unity and commitment to climate action and cutting greenhouse gas emissions as to containing the coronavirus pandemic. Failure in climate change mitigation could lead to greater human life and economic losses during the coming decades” he said.
According to an analysis carried out for Carbon Brief, the lockdown and reduction in economic activity in China led to an estimated 25 % reduction in CO2 emissions in the space of four weeks.
Source: United Nations