Coronavirus slows global energy demand causing carbon dioxide emissions to plummet

Carbon dioxide emissions are set to fall as energy demand slumps during the coronavirus pandemic. Source: AAP

Carbon-intensive coal demand has so far been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with projections down eight per cent for 2020 as a whole.

Economic lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic look set to cut global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions by record amounts, says the International Energy Agency. 

Global energy demand could slump by six per cent in 2020 due to the restrictions placed on homes and industry in what would be the largest contraction in absolute terms on record, according to the Paris-based agency, which advises industrialised nations on energy issues.

The slump would lead to a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of eight per cent, six times larger than the biggest fall of 400 million tonnes recorded in 2009 following the global financial crisis. 

The IEA described its estimate as conservative.

Carbon intensive coal demand has so far been hit the hardest by the pandemic
Carbon intensive coal demand has so far been hit the hardest by the pandemic

"Some countries may delay the lifting of the lockdown, or a second wave of coronavirus could render our current expectations on the optimistic side," the organisation's executive director Fatih Birol told Reuters.

Business activity has stalled across much of the globe as the containment measures hammer the world economy, cementing economists’ views of a deep global recession.

Carbon intensive coal demand has so far been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with demand in both the first quarter and projections for 2020 as a whole down eight per cent compared with the same periods last year.

Global natural gas demand could fall by around five per cent in 2020 but renewable power generation has lifted during the period by three per cent as new wind and solar projects come online.

"Given the number of deaths and the economic trauma around the world - this historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer," Mr Birol said, urging governments to seize on the disruptions to build greener energy infrastructure. 

Oil storage shortage

An unprecedented pact by top oil producing countries this month to rein in output to balance supply with flagging demand may not succeed, the IEA warned, with places to store the excess crude running out.

Oil demand fell by five per cent over the first quarter but could ultimately be the worst hit fuel over 2020, with total demand down as much as nine per cent.

"At the current pace in the oil market, we may well see around mid-June the global storage capacity can be full," Mr Birol said, noting the problem was worst in North America.

Global oil demand is expected to fall a record 9.3 million barrels per day in 2020.

"My call to them is to consider further cuts," Mr Birol said.

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