COVID-19 causes record decline in global CO2 emissions

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Authors: Zhu Liu, Zhu Deng, Philippe Ciais, Ruixue Lei, Steven J. Davis, Sha Feng, Bo Zheng, Duo Cui, Xinyu Dou, Pan He, Biqing Zhu, Chenxi Lu, Piyu Ke, Taochun Sun, Yuan Wang, Xu Yue, Yilong Wang, Yadong Lei, Hao Zhou, Zhaonan Cai, Yuhui Wu, Runtao Guo, Tingxuan Han, Jinjun Xue, Olivier Boucher, Frederic Chevallier, Eulalie Boucher, Yimin Wei, Qiang Zhang, Dabo Guan, Peng Gong, Daniel M. Kammen, Kebin He, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

The unprecedented cessation of human activities during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected global energy use and CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production. Here we show that the decrease in global fossil CO2 emissions during the first quarter of 2020 was of 5.8% (542 Mt CO2 with a 20% 1-{\sigma} uncertainty). Unlike other emerging estimates, ours show the temporal dynamics of emissions based on actual emissions data from power generation (for 29 countries) and industry (for 73 countries), on near real time activity data for road transportation (for 132 countries), aviation and maritime transportation, and on heating degree days for commercial and residential sectors emissions (for 206 countries). These dynamic estimates cover all of the human induced CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production. The largest share of COVID-related decreases in emissions are due to decreases in industry (157.9 Mt CO2, -7.1% compared to 2019), followed by road transportation (145.7 Mt CO2, -8.3%), power generation (131.6 Mt CO2, -3.8%), residential (47.8 Mt CO2, -3.6%), fishing and maritime transport (35.5Mt CO2, -13.3%) and aviation (33.4 Mt CO2, -8.0%). Regionally, decreases in emissions from China were the largest and earliest (-10.3%), followed by Europe (EU-27 & UK) (-4.3%) and the U.S. (-4.2%). Relative decreases of regional CO2 emissions are consistent with regional nitrogen oxides concentrations observed by satellites and ground-based networks. Despite the unprecedented decreases in CO2 emissions and comparable decreases in economic activities, we monitored decreases in the carbon intensity (Emission per unit of GDP) in China (3.5%), the U.S. (4.5%) and Europe (5.4%) over the first quarter, suggesting that carbon-intensive activities have been disproportionally impacted.