While your home energy bill may have increased while you shelter in place, the planet’s overall energy use has taken a significant downturn. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first quarter report, global carbon emissions could be down by 8% this year, the biggest drop the agency has ever seen.
In the first quarter of 2020, global energy demand decreased by 3.8%, thanks in large part to lockdowns in Europe and North America. The report collected data for 30 countries from January 1 through April 14. The analysis concluded that countries in full lockdown averaged a 25% weekly decline in energy demand, while countries in partial lockdown averaged 18%. While your own energy bill probably won’t reflect this trend, reductions in energy use by industrial and commercial concerns far outweigh upticks in residential demand. “For weeks, the shape of demand resembled that of a prolonged Sunday,” the report said. In short, the longer and more stringent the lockdown, the better for Earth’s atmosphere.
“This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a press release. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”
Global coal demand fell by nearly 8% compared with 2019’s first quarter. Analysts attributed this to a mild winter, the growth in renewable energy sources and the pandemic’s hard hit on China’s coal-based economy. Oil demand was also down, falling nearly 5%. The extreme aviation slowdown accounted for much of the oil decline, paired with global road transport activity dropping by half.
“Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Birol said. “And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve. But governments can learn from that experience by putting clean energy technologies — renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture — at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”
Image via Marcin Jozwiak