Carbon emissions have plummeted by 17 per cent since the coronavirus lockdown began, reveals a new study.
But scientists warned that the trend is unlikely to last.
Researchers found that the global COVID-19 lockdown has had an “extreme” effect on daily carbon emissions.
Scientists found that daily emissions decreased by 17 per cent – or 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – globally during the peak of the confinement measures in early April compared to mean daily levels in 2019, dropping to levels last observed in 2006.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, said: “Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions.
“These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary though, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport, or energy systems.
“The extent to which world leaders consider climate change when planning their economic responses post COVID-19 will influence the global CO2 emissions paths for decades to come.”
Prof Le Quéré added: “Opportunities exist to make real, durable, changes and be more resilient to future crises, by implementing economic stimulus packages that also help meet climate targets, especially for mobility, which accounts for half the decrease in emissions during confinement.
“For example in cities and suburbs, supporting walking and cycling, and the uptake of electric bikes, is far cheaper and better for wellbeing and air quality than building roads, and it preserves social distancing.”
Emissions from car journeys account for almost 43 per cent of the decrease in global emissions during peak confinement on April 7.
Emissions from industry and from power together account for a further 43 per cent of the decrease in daily global emissions.
Aviation is the economic sector most impacted by the lockdown, only accounts for three per cent of global emissions, or 10 per cent of the decrease in emissions during the pandemic.
The increase in the use of residential buildings from people working at home made only a marginal difference.
In individual countries, emissions decreased by 26% on average at the peak of their confinement.
The analysis also shows that social responses alone, without increases in wellbeing and/or supporting infrastructure, will not drive the deep and sustained reductions needed to reach net zero emissions.
The team analysed government policies on confinement for 69 countries responsible for 97 per cent of global CO2 emissions at the peak of lockdown.
The estimated total change in emissions from the pandemic amounts to 1048 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) until the end of April – the total change in the UK for January-April 2020 is an estimated 18 MtCO2.
The impact of confinement on 2020 annual emissions is projected to be around four per cent to seven per cent compared to 2019, depending on the duration of the lockdown and the extent of the recovery.
If pre-pandemic conditions of mobility and economic activity return by mid-June, the decline would be around four per cent.
If some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of the year, it would be around seven per cent.
This annual drop is comparable to the amount of annual emission reductions needed year-on-year across decades to achieve the climate objectives of the UN Paris Agreement.
Prof Rob Jackson, of Stanford University, said: “The drop in emissions is substantial but illustrates the challenge of reaching our Paris climate commitments.
“We need systemic change through green energy and electric cars, not temporary reductions from enforced behaviour.”
The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change.