The Corona Crisis is also Reducing CO2 Emissions

The Corona Crisis is also Reducing CO2 Emissions

Emissions are estimated to fall by a record-breaking 8 percent this year.

That’s what the International Energy Agency (IEA) writes in a new report. The organisation relies on an analysis of global energy consumption over a 100-day period in 2020. On this basis, the IEA then estimated what energy consumption will look like in the rest of this year and what impact this will have on CO2 emissions. It has been assumed that the lockdowns applied by countries around the world are slowly easing and the economy is slowly recovering in response to these easings.

The figures in the report are nothing short of shocking. For example, the researchers argue that energy needs will be as much as 6 percent lower by 2020. As a result, the decline in energy demand is seven times greater than during the financial crisis in 2008. Also absolutely speaking, the predicted decrease is second to none, the IEA stresses. The decrease is broadly comparable to India’s total energy needs: the third largest energy consumer in the world.

If we zoom in on countries and regions, we will see that energy needs are not declining equally everywhere. For example, the decline in richer countries is greater than in poorer countries. For example, the IEA predicts that about 9 percent less energy will be consumed this year. The EU expects a reduction of up to 11%.

If we zoom in on the different energy sources, the figures are also quite revolutionary. For example, electricity consumption appears to have plummeted. In countries with full lockdown, electricity consumption decreases by up to 20%! And it is expected that electricity will be used by about 5% this year. According to the IEA, we have not seen such a large decrease since the crisis in the early 1930s.

As many power plants still run on coal, we are also seeing a sharp decline in demand for that coal. Demand for coal is expected to fall by around 8% globally this year. It is the biggest decline since World War II, according to the IEA. And demand for gas is also falling, expected to be around 5%. The same applies to the demand for oil.


However, there are also energy sources that are growing despite the global corona crisis. For example, the IEA predicts that the market share of renewable energy sources – such as solar and wind energy – will increase considerably. This is partly due to the fact that it is preferable to address renewable energy sources first and only then the other energy sources. As the overall demand for energy declines, the share of renewable energy sources is growing. What also helps is the fact that large renewable energy projects will be completed in several places by the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, which has greatly increased capacity. Moreover, not all renewable energy sources are doing just as well. For example, the demand for biofuel is expected to decrease considerably this year, as there is less transport and travel.

CO2 emissions

All these developments – but in particular the decline in the use of coal and oil – have of course had a considerable impact on CO2 emissions. According to the IEA, we can expect this to be 8% lower this year (than in 2019). In concrete terms, it means that this year we will emit 2.6 gigatons of CO2 less. This is a huge decrease, bringing our annual emissions to the level of 10 years ago. It is the largest decrease ever documented, according to the IEA. And the decrease is no less than six times greater than the previous record holder: a decrease of 0.4 Gt recorded as a result of the financial crisis in 2009.