2020 is currently on track to be one of the warmest on record, with wildfires, droughts, storms and glacier melt only intensifying.(Representational Image)
2020 is currently on track to be one of the warmest on record, with wildfires, droughts, storms and glacier melt only intensifying.(Representational Image)

Low carbon recovery from Covid-19 slowdown can solve climate crisis: Report

For Covid-19 recovery from slowdown, governments are spending at an unprecedented scale, the report has found, currently amounting to roughly US$12 trillion globally, or 12% of GDP in 2020
By Jayashree Nandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 09, 2020 04:21 PM IST

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to fall by 7% this year compared to 2019 but the world will still be heading for a temperature rise of over 3 degrees C this century.

But, a green recovery from the pandemic with investments in sectors that will help curb CO2 emissions can take the world to a 2 degree C rise pathway as defined in the Paris Agreement goals, the Emissions Gap Report 2020 has said on Wednesday.

For Covid-19 recovery from slowdown, governments are spending at an unprecedented scale, the report has found, currently amounting to roughly US$12 trillion globally, or 12% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. For G20 members, fiscal spending amounts to around 15% of GDP on average for 2020. For middle-income and developing countries, however, the spending is less than 6% of GDP.

Most governments have focused on funding rescue measures to reboot businesses and jobs in their immediate economic response to Covid-19, with only a few including conditions that encourage businesses to decarbonise, the report has found.

India has allocated about 10.1% of 2019 GDP for Covid-19 rescue and recovery measures, according to the report based on data from Oxford Recovery Project which has an overview of total fiscal rescue and recovery measures of G20 members. But data shows that most of India’s recovery measures have high carbon effects.

There are large disparities in fiscal spending around the world. Fiscal spending of some G20 members is as high as 40% and as low as 1.7% for some others. France, Germany, South Korea and the UK have among the highest investments with low carbon effects.

The annual report published by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in 2020 due to Covid-19 is likely to be significantly larger than the 1.2% reduction during the global financial crisis in the late 2000s.

But, 2020 is currently on track to be one of the warmest on record, with wildfires, droughts, storms and glacier melt only intensifying. A fall of 7% in CO2 emissions this year means only a 0.01 degree C reduction of global warming by 2050.

On the brighter side, the report says there is scope for course correction now. Investing in zero emission technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, not building any more coal plants, promoting nature-based solutions like large-scale landscape restoration, and reforestation could put emissions in 2030 at 44 GtCO2e which would mean a 66% chance of keeping global temperature rise to below 2 degree C compared to pre-industrial levels.

In addition, the ambition of various nationally determined contributions (NDCs) will have to be tripled to meet the 2 degrees C target and increased by at least 5 times to meet the 1.5 degree C goal (threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said will mark a menacing milestone in the warming of the planet). The current pledges under the Paris Agreement are inadequate and could only limit global temperature rise to 3.2 degrees C, the report has warned.

In fact, the report has estimated that following the initial dip in CO2 emissions, there could be a rebound effect in many countries in order to bounce back from the Covid-19-induced slowdown. Some countries could roll back climate policies as part of Covid-19 responses, then the decrease in global emissions by 2030 could be significantly smaller at around 1.5 GtCO2e or may actually increase by around 1 GtCO2e compared with the pre-Covid-19 current policies scenario.

“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director. “However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change. I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of Covid 19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021.”

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