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Business News/ Lounge / Features/  Mint Climate Tracker: It takes a pandemic

It’s deeply ironical that it took an emergency to make a (momentary dent) in another emergency. Firmly in the grip of a pandemic that seems to have no end date in sight, the world’s CO2 emissions are in line to fall by record levels this year.

The International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Review 2020, which was published at the end of last month, forecast that the global carbon emissions are going to fall by 8% in 2020. That comes to a decrease of about 2.6 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalents, to a level that was last observed 10 years ago. In comparison, the last big drop in emissions was in 2009, in the aftermath of the previous year’s financial crisis, when CO2 emissions had fallen by 0.4 Gt.

According to the report, this fall will be driven by a global drop in oil demand of 9% and an 8% drop in the demand for coal. Natural gas and nuclear power will also see reductions. The share in renewable energy is expected to increase, due to low operating costs. Now here’s what’s ironic. The November 2019 United Nations Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report had called for a 5% annual drop in emissions (starting in 2019) to meet the Paris 2015 goals of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era. It took a global pandemic, with close to 300,000 dead, for us to get here. To get to the even better mitigation target

What’s true for the world is also true for India. The environmental website Carbon Brief crunched data released by India’s Power System Operation Corporation Ltd (POSOCO) to reveal on 12 May that India’s CO2 emissions fell for the first time in 40 years by 1% in the fiscal year ending March 2020. There was a 15% decrease in the month of March due to the pandemic. CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 30% in April when new data is out. Coal-based power generation declined by 15% in March and 31% in the first three weeks of April. It took a pandemic!

Follow the column with #MintClimateTracker. Click here to listen to the first season of the Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast hosted by Bibek Bhattacharya

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Bibek Bhattacharya
Bibek is the Deputy Editor of Mint Lounge. He writes on a variety of subjects, including climate change, science and culture. He is also occasionally hosts the Mint Climate Tracker podcast.
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Updated: 15 May 2020, 11:08 AM IST
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