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19 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Global carbon emissions fall by record amount

By Samuel Horti

Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by a record amount because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first definitive study of carbon output during the crisis has shown.

Daily emissions in early April were 17 per cent lower than 2019 levels, the study found. In the UK, emissions fell by more than 30 per cent during the strictest period of lockdown, while in Australia emissions dropped 28.3 per cent. Other countries recorded falls of more than a quarter.

Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said the study showed “a really big fall, but at the same time, 83 per cent of global emissions are left, which shows how difficult it is to reduce emissions with changes in behaviour”.

The study estimated carbon emissions will begin to rise as countries lift lockdown, leading to an overall annual drop of around 7 per cent, provided some restrictions remain in place. 

An early lifting of restrictions, in mid-June, could mean the drop is only 4 per cent. That would still mark the biggest annual fall since the Second World War, but it would make “a negligible impact on the Paris agreement” goals, Le Quéré said.

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