Coronavirus lock-down cuts China’s carbon emissions

China’s carbon emissions drastically drop as a result of coronovirus

China’s carbon emissions drastically dropped by at least 100 million metric tonnes in the last few weeks of February, as a result of the rapid spread of the coronovirus

US space agency NASA has released images showing a dramatic decline in the pollution levels over China, while the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) has found the drop in demand for coal and oil has led to an emissions slump.

CREA added coal power plant operating rates were down by about one third and refinery throughput, a proxy of oil demand, is down by 30%.

In general, the measures to contain coronavirus – including the shutdown of factories and quarantines – have resulted in reductions of 15% to 40% in output across key industrial sectors.

A further report by Carbon Brief said this is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past four weeks to end of February, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese new-year holiday.

NASA scientists also said the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan city, but has since spread across the country.

A blog published by CREA’s Lauri Myllyvirta said: “National average PM2.5 levels have dropped like a stone in the past weeks, with the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region around Shanghai seeing particularly dramatic reductions.

“However, Beijing air pollution has been worse than at any point during last winter. The larger region around Beijing has seen better air quality, but much less pronounced than other parts of the country.”

“The smog episodes in Beijing have been a combination of continued industrial and residential emissions and unfavourable weather patterns. Without the reduction in emissions that has happened due to the virus containment measures, these episodes would simply have been even worse.”

Rupert Thompson, chief investment officer at Kingswood: “Outside China, cases are now rising sharply in a number of countries – just as they did inside China in the early stages of the crisis. This looks likely to continue near term given the problems of containing the outbreak when people can be infectious but symptom-free. In China, by contrast, the sharp decline in new cases is undoubtedly encouraging. But there is a significant risk that cases spike higher again, now people are returning to work.”

Meanwhile, Rob Mangrelli, Director at Chatham Financial, said the supply chain in China has obviously been disrupted by the coronavirus, but there is optimism around future production: “Whether this optimism will manifest into future output will likely be dependent on the spread of the virus and its impact on supply and demand.”


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...