January 19, 2021

A global lockdown’s impact on our carbon footprint

A global lockdown’s impact on our carbon footprint

Throughout history, major global events have seen a declining trend in carbon emissions for various reasons. Such was the case during the financial crisis of 2008, the oil crisis in 1979, and even World War 2. While the covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten millions of lives across the globe, the first half of 2020 saw a decline in carbon emissions larger than all of the aforementioned global events. Considering the impact of commercial travel on our carbon footprint, the global travel ban was one of the biggest contributors to the decline in carbon emissions.

A team of international researchers has found that in the first half of 2020, 8.8% less carbon dioxide was emitted than in the same period in 2019 — a decrease of 1,551 million tonnes. This research not only highlights COVID-19’s impact on global energy consumption, but also recommends fundamental steps that can help stabilize the global climate post the pandemic. The study, undertaken by researchers from the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, suggests that the decrease in emissions has corresponded to lockdown measures around the world. In April, when the first wave of COVID infections hit and most countries shut down their public or social life, emissions declined by 16.9%.

A greater reduction was spotted in the ground transportation sector. Due to the adoption of the work-from-home framework, in light of the pandemic — transport CO2 emissions dropped 40% worldwide. On the contrary, the power and industry sectors contributed less to the decline, with -22 % and -17 %, respectively, as did the aviation and shipping sectors. Surprisingly, even the residential sector saw a small emissions drop of 3 %. This was mainly due to an unusually warm winter in the northern hemisphere, heating energy consumption decreased with most people staying at home all day during lockdown periods.

As optimistic and promising as it was, this drop was short-lived. By July 2020, as soon as the lockdown and travel restrictions started getting relaxed in the western world, most economies returned to their usual levels of emissions. Furthermore, even if the decline was notable enough to make a difference, it took a complete standstill of the global economy, which simply is not a viable solution. However, we can use these statistics to get an accurate picture of how we can impact the world around us by altering our actions. To make a contribution to one’s carbon footprint, one needs to be able to accurately track and monitor one’s emissions. Voyage Manager helps track an individual’s carbon footprint based on their travel data and history. Although this feature is available in various modules, we are working on creating a Carbon module that is completely focused on a company’s CO2 emissions based on their business travel activities.

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