In a sort of butterfly effect of global reach, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unexpected positive effect: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Experts estimate that greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced in a few weeks to levels of 75 years ago. In China, it has been estimated that CO₂ emissions have been reduced by 25% after two months of containment measures. According to this data, The Global Carbon Project has estimated that total emissions at the end of 2020 could be reduced by 5%. Climate Change, however, is still ongoing.
This crisis is expected to trigger deep changes in our society, marked by, among other things, increased awareness of environmental issues, sustainability and health. On the other hand, all countries will have to implement different measures to reactivate the economy at a global level. Those formulas must be sought to do so in a sustainable manner, thus avoiding a “rebound effect” on greenhouse gas emissions and a possible negative effect on the fight against climate change.
Renewables: now more than ever
Renewable energies have always played a critical role in climate change mitigation plans. But beyond their leading role in CO2 emission reduction strategies, today they can play an important role in the economic recovery of the most affected regions such as Europe and the US, due to the sector’s capacity to generate employment, wealth, attract investment and minimize energy dependence.
This will require governments to include specific measures for renewable energies in financial support packages and to coordinate short-term measures with medium and long-term measures with the aim of maintaining low greenhouse gas emissions. Some regions, such as Europe, have already officially expressed their commitment to continue the measures they had announced before the crisis, coinciding with the celebration of Earth Day.
Fortunately, the confinement situation will be over soon and the world will gradually return to (new) normality. But this terrible crisis that humanity is going through will have provided an important precedent and valuable data, that will help us to develop better strategies and tools to accelerate the fight against Climate Change, which still represents the greatest challenge for humanity.