CHINA, US, EU and India account for two-thirds of downturn across first four months.

Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are set to drop by up to seven percent in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but even their dramatic decline, the sharpest since WWII, would barely dent long-term global warming researchers reported Tuesday.

In early April, coronavirus lockdown led to a 17 percent reduction worldwide in carbon pollution compared to the same period last year, according to the first-peer reviewed assessment of the pandemic's impact on CO2 emissions, published in Nature Climate Change.

Four countries or blocs, China, the United States, the European Union and India, accounted for two-thirds of the downturn across the first four months of 2020, equivalent to more than one billion tonnes of CO2.

Total emissions from industry and energy last year came to a record 32 billion tonnes. ''Population confinement has lead to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions,'' said lead author Corinne Le Quere, a professor at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

''These extreme decisions are likely to be temporary, however, as they do not reflect the structural changes in the economic, transport or energy systems.''

If the global economy recovers to pre-pandemic conditions by mid-June, an unlikely scenario, CO2 emissions in 2020 are projected to drop ony four percent, Le Quere and her team calculated.

But if lockdown restrictions persist throughout the year, the decline would be around 7 percent. With nearly five million confirmed infections and 320,000 deaths, the Covid-19 pandemic has deflected attention from the climate crisis that dominated global concerns in 2019. But the climate threat remains, other experts warn.

''This will make barely a dent in the on-going build-p of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,'' said Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at Britain's
Met Office Hadley Centre. [AFP]


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