Countermeasures to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic including complete lockdowns in a number of countries are causing unprecedented drops in global energy demand and will likely drive a massive fall in worldwide greenhouse gas emissions this year, the International Energy Agency said Thursday.
In its Global Energy Review, the agency found that the coronavirus will bring about a 6% drop in energy demand this year – a decline seven times larger than was seen during the financial crisis a decade ago.
That will spark an 8% drop in global emissions, IEA said, bringing them down by some 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2e to 30.6 bln and marking the biggest annual reduction ever recorded.
“Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director.
“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.”
The agency found that energy demand in Q1 fell the most in China, the EU, and the US, and all those regions saw 8-9% drops in emissions in Q1 compared to a total global retracement of 5%.
“The evolution of energy demand through the remainder of 2020 will depend most notably on the duration, stringency and geographical spread of lockdowns, and the speed of recoveries,” the IEA report said.
“Initial IEA evaluations indicate that full-year energy demand could decline by around 6%, equivalent to the combined energy demand of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom in 2019.”
The emission reductions will be greater than the fall in energy demand, as the use of fossil fuels, and in particular coal, is falling more than clean energy under the crisis.
IEA numbers showed coal demand fell nearly 8% year-on-year globally in Q1, with oil and natural gas also seeing respective declines of 5% and 2%.
Renewable energy, meanwhile, rose 1.5% YoY in the first three months of 2020.
“Not all of the declines in demand in Q1 2020 were a result of the response to COVID-19. The continuation of milder-than-average weather conditions throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere winter also pushed down demand,” the report said.
“The impact of weather was particularly strong in the United States, where the majority of the 18% decline in residential and commercial gas consumption can be attributed to a milder winter than in 2019.”
Birol said the energy system that emerges from this pandemic will be significantly different from the old one, and he urged governments to reconsider an alternative to the energy-intensive, carbon-fuelled recovery that followed the financial crisis.
“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,” he added.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org