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COVID-fuelled emissions reductions not enough to meet climate targets

Reductions in transport emissions account for the greatest part of the overall emissions reductions in 2020.
Reductions in transport emissions account for the greatest part of the overall emissions reductions in 2020.
Feb 02 2021

The unprecedented emissions reductions fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic can help break from the trend of ever-growing global greenhouse gas emissions, but much more must be done to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

The COVID-19 mobility restrictions have led to the greatest slump in mobility demand in recent history.

Reductions in transport emissions account for the greatest part of the overall emissions reductions in 2020.

The pandemic seems to have accelerated some investment trends, technology choices and changes in behaviour, which could eventually push the global energy system into a ‘new normal’.

A JRC report indicates that if these new patterns are sustained, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions might never go beyond their historical high recorded in 2019.

However, a return to business-as-usual trends would see emissions rise again.

Emissions reductions not enough to reach Paris targets

The report emphasises that even though these ‘new normal’ changes could be enough to break the trend of growing global GHG emissions, they are not enough to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement.

The projections show that the pandemic has significantly altered previous emissions trends, but the reductions have only closed the emissions gap towards limiting temperature rise to 2°C by about 35%.

Turning challenges into opportunities

This gives a strong signal that more ambitious actions are needed to maintain the global temperature change to well below 2°C by 2100, as expected by the Paris Agreement.

The analysis reveals the important challenges that countries are facing when aiming for big emissions reductions without causing damage to economic activities.

But the authors of the report remain hopeful. They see the pandemic and the resulting changes as an opportunity for governments to bolster a green recovery and to accelerate investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

About the report

The "Global Energy and Climate Outlook" is an annual publication of the JRC, produced in collaboration with DG CLIMA.

Based on quantified assessment by the JRC's internal energy-economics teams, GECO provides a global picture of energy markets as they transform over the next decades, under the simultaneous interactions of economic development, technological innovation and climate policies.

GECO brings together decades-long expertise in the fields of energy production, energy trade, technological development and energy system transformation, GHG emissions mitigation strategies, economic development and data analysis.