The drop in carbon emissions due to coronavirus lockdowns won’t last. But as we rebuild, we have a unique opportunity to make the structural changes required to hit net-zero targets, says Corinne Le Quéré
1 July 2020
THE lockdowns imposed in many countries in response to the coronavirus have caused a dramatic reduction in our carbon emissions. But there is already evidence that this won’t last. So how can governments build on this moment, as they plan for economic recovery, to make progress towards net-zero targets?
Corinne Le Quéré has a few ideas. A French-Canadian climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, she is an expert on the policies required to meet those targets and an advisor to the UK and French governments, both of whom have committed to reach net zero by 2050.
Le Quéré is also a leading authority on the carbon cycle, with a particular interest in what will become of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and oceans, in a warming world. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, the Netherlands’s most prestigious international science award.
Adam Vaughan: What do you expect will happen to global carbon dioxide emissions this year?
Corinne Le Quéré: Over the past decade, emissions had been going up about 1 per cent per year. Since March, with the confinement and the restraints on travel, there has been a really big effect. Our estimates suggest a reduction in emissions of between 4 and 7 per cent this year. This is huge. What’s going to happen after that depends on how we’re going to approach the economic recovery. In 2009, during the financial crash, emissions dropped 1.4 per cent. They then grew more than 5 per cent in 2010, which brought us exactly back to where we were …