Recently the world has been affected by an unexpected viral infection we have all come to know as Corona virus. There’s various outcomes from the outbreak,on one hand economies have slowed down, some businesses closed down,panic buying, falling stocks, and on the other hand spending more time with family, remote working, a welcomed hiatus and the one that felt it the most, our climate. 

China being the world’s largest greenhouse polluter,carbon emissions have gone down significantly close to 25% over this outbreak according to a report by Lauri Myllyvirta at the University of Helsinki’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

The reason behind this is the reduced movement, flights and industrial activity, Carbon emissions have gone down significantly for the time. Industrial output and operations and electricity demand have been way below usual levels across a range of indicators which have been the lowest two-week average in several years.

  • Coal consumption at power plants was down 36%
  • Operating rates for main steel products were down by more than 15%, while crude steel production was almost unchanged
  • Coal throughput at the largest coal port fell 29%
  • Coking plant utilization fell 23%
  • Satellite-based NO2 levels were 37% lower
  • Utilization of oil refining capacity was lowered by 34%


wuhan emissions


Over the same period in 2019, China released around 800m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), meaning the outbreak could have cut global emissions by 200MtCO2 to date. Measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors. This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past four weeks.

Across the Globe

This reduced emissions isn’t only happening in China, but across the globe, in Europe, Japan, South Korea, the United states, many of the 8 most industrious nations have been affected.

Around the world, the aviation industry is predicting significant losses, British airline Flybe has collapsed, sporting events and international conferences have been cancelled, schools closed. In addition, global air traffic decreased by 4.3% in February amid the COVID-19 outbreak, aircraft flight traffic website FlightRadar24 announced last Tuesday.

At their peak, flight cancellations were reducing global passenger aviation volumes by 10%, but the sector appears to be recovering, with global capacity down 5% on year in February as a whole.

canals in Venice

Canals in Venice clear amid the quarantine.

Set back climate diplomacy efforts

An article by Times magazine implies the outbreak also slowed down implementation and making of policies by world leaders on combating climate change. On the basic level. Various conferences and high level meetings planned for the period on climate change have been cancelled. Most of the world leaders have shifted their focus and attention in controlling the spread of the outbreak, issues on climate change taking a back seat. The slowed down economic growth might also result in a surge of emissions as countries try to return back to full production capacity with support from the government such as the economic stimulus given by the Chinese government, recently the British Government too.

What we can learn of efficient travel

The travel restrictions over this period can teach us something on reducing our carbon emissions through non-essential traveling. Avenues and opportunities to carry out meetings and conferences virtually and remotely without pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. Even climate change events and conferences leave a load of carbon through the movement of participants to and from the conference, teleconferencing  may just. 

The question is: Is the reduction in emissions enough to mitigate climate change and the environmental dangers that come with it?