Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns

Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
Mumbai gets shrouded in smog after private vehicles return to the streets and constructions projects restart in various parts of the city as people gradually begin to step out of their homesBCCL
  • The dip in global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels is estimated to hit a historical high of 7% in 2020 on account of the COVID-19 lockdowns across the world, according to the Global Carbon Project’s latest Carbon Budget.
  • India is set to outpace the global average, with an estimated 8.2% contraction of carbon emissions this year.
  • The report notes that India was already on the road to reporting negative carbon emissions even before the pandemic hit in late 2019. The outbreak of COVID-19 only potentially ‘superimposed’ on this changing trend.
The planet was able to breathe a little easier with the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown around the world keeping people off roads. The Global Carbon Project’s Carbon Budget report for 2020 estimates that this has led to the largest-ever dip in carbon emissions from fossil fuels in history of 7%.

Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
Projected global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels for 2020Global Carbon Project

The gains will be even higher for India, with an average estimated 8.2% drop in fossil carbon emissions projected for 2020. The only two nations expected to see a larger drop are the US and the European Union (EU).

Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
Likely decline of emissions by countryGlobal Carbon Project

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In fact, even before the pandemic hit, the country’s carbon emissions were already lower than average in late 2019. The report cites economic turmoil and strong hydropower generation as the primary reasons.

The outbreak of COVID-19 only potentially ‘superimposed’ on this changing trend. The largest dip in emissions is seen from the cement sector, followed by oil and coal. The gas industry is expected to bear the least impact.

Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
India's carbon emissions across industriesGlobal Carbon Project

Decrease in emissions has barely made an impact on overall carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Despite the dramatic effect of COVID-19, the decrease has hardly made a dent in the overall carbon dioxide level within the Earth’s atmosphere. Last year, carbon dioxide concentration was at 36.4 billion tonnes. This year it’s 34 billion tonnes — a contraction of only 2.4 billion tonnes.
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Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2020 compared to 2019Global Carbon Project

To make matters worse, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on carbon dioxide emissions is temporary. The report estimates that the levels of emissions and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are mostly likely to rebound in 2021. The question is by how much.

"All elements are not yet in place for sustained decreases in global emission, and emissions are slowly edging back to 2019 levels,” said Corinne Le Quere from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, one of the researchers who contributed to the study.
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Carbon emissions in India show third-highest drop after US and Europe in 2020 — thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns
Distribution of decrease in carbon dioxide emissions decrease due to COVID-19 lockdownsGlobal Carbon Project

The largest share of the decrease in carbon emissions in 2020 can be accounted for by road transport followed by industry. Both of which are already making a comeback.

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