A greener recovery from COVID-19 can slow climate change: UN Report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Climate Change Image
Representational Image

A newly published United Nations (UN) report has revealed that even with a small dip in global carbon dioxide emissions caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, the planet is still heading towards a global temperature rise of more than 3 degrees Celsius this century. 

The 2020 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2020 observes that swift and robust climate action can, however, alter the temperature trajectory.

The report has reemphasized the need for urgent investments towards climate action as part of the COVID-19 recovery to bring the world closer to the Paris Agreement goal of at most a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise.

Speaking on the occasion, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen stressed that a truly green recovery from the pandemic can take “a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions” and 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,” the Executive Director remarked.

The report remarks that a greener COVID-19 recovery could reduce the expected emissions in 2020 by up to 25 percent, boosting the chance of keeping temperature increase to below 2-degree Celsius, up to 66 percent.

Measures such as supporting zero-emission technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, stopping new coal plants, and promoting nature-based solutions including large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation are recommended to be prioritised as per the report.

The UN report noted the growing number of countries committing to net-zero emissions goals by mid-century as a “significant and encouraging development”. It stated that 126 countries who contribute to 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have adopted, announced, or are considering, a net-zero pledge.

Improvements in shipping and aviation technology and operations are seen as factors that can improve fuel efficiency. The report also points out the need for a rapid transition away from fossil fuel to achieve absolute reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as demand for fuel continues to increase.

The Emissions Gap Report affirmed that the richest one percent of the global population accounts for more than twice the combined emissions of the poorest 50 percent while advising that the top tier will need to reduce their collective footprint by a factor of 30, to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets.

On an individual level, the report stated that changes in consumption behavior by the private sector and individuals can help strengthen climate action, through various means such as replacing domestic short-haul flights with rail travel, promoting cycling and car-sharing, making housing more energy-efficient, and reducing food waste.