Record lows


    During the global lockdown, daily carbon emissions plummeted by 17% across the world.

    As people stayed at home and stopped commuting, carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 17 million tonnes a day during the peak, dropping to levels not seen in over a decade.

    Led by Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Climate Change Science here at UEA, the study brought together a team of scientists from around the world and they looked at the 69 countries responsible for 97% of global CO2 emissions. 


    They discovered that the 2020 lockdowns led to a record drop in global fossil carbon emissions, estimated to be 2 billion tonnes. The reduction in surface transport emissions (mainly car journeys) was responsible for 43% of the decrease, while industry and power accounted for a further 43% decrease in emissions. 

    This temporary annual drop in emissions is comparable to the amount of annual emission reductions needed year-on-year across decades to achieve the climate objectives of the UN Paris Agreement.

    So, the big question is – how can we create similar marked decreases in emissions without all staying at home? The answer lies in thinking differently.

    What next? 

    Real change needs to come from the alignment of actions post-COVID that both help to reduce global carbon emissions and rebuild economies. The extent to which world leaders consider climate change when planning their economic responses to the pandemic will influence the global CO2 emissions paths for decades to come. 

    Unlocking the potential of green initiatives is key if the world is to achieve the dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions we saw during lockdown. For example, instead of building new roads, we should invest in more walking and cycling paths, and encourage more people to use electric bikes. Not only is this far cheaper, it improves air quality and is far better for people’s health and wellbeing. We need a new era of innovative and collaborative green thinking.

    Learn more about
    Prof Le Quéré’s lockdown research

    Our perspectives

    “Opportunities exist to make real, durable, changes and be more resilient to future crises, by implementing economic stimulus packages that also help meet climate targets, especially for mobility, which accounts for half the decrease in emissions during confinement.”

    Professor Corinne Le Quéré

    Listen to an interview with
    Prof Le Quéré

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