Pandemic and Forthcoming Stimulus Funds Could Bring Climate Targets in Sight – or Not


The lockdowns that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

owever, in the recovery phase, emissions could rise to levels above those projected before the pandemic. It all depends on how the stimulus money that governments inject into their economies is spent. A team of scientists, led by Dr Yuli Shan and Professor Klaus Hubacek from the University of Groningen, has quantified how different recovery scenarios may affect global emissions and climate change. Their results were published in Nature Climate Change on 22 december 2020. Hubacek: ‘A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’

The worldwide recession caused by the coronavirus has had a profound impact on greenhouse gas emissions that is likely to continue in the coming years. ‘The decline in 2020 might bring us back to the levels of 2006-2007’, says Yuli Shan, an environmental scientist at the University of Groningen and first author of the paper.

The CO2 emissions from industrial sectors over the course of 2020 to 2024 might be 3.9 to 5.6 per cent lower than the emissions that were expected if there had not been a pandemic. ‘This drop in emissions will help us to achieve the goals that were set by the Paris Climate Agreement, although it is not yet enough.’ However, countries are now developing stimulus packages to boost their economies and that will affect emissions.

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