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  • Writer's pictureEmily Lombardo

There was a record drop in carbon emissions this year. Can we keep it that way in 2021?

The Sars-Cov-2 pandemic changed the way we live in almost every way. Global carbon emissions dropped the most in recorded history this year, decreasing 7% from 2019 numbers. That’s a difference of approximately 2.4 billion metric tonnes! But are these changes here to stay?

The drop this year came largely from the changes in transportation and industrial industries like infrastructure construction and manufacturing. Factories and other places of manufacturing around the world had to shut down, which lead to a decrease in emissions from both the lack of manufacturing and the lack of demand for energy supplies that normally power the factories. A study by Nature Communications found that between January 1 and June 17, emissions from global aviation decreased by 44%. Emissions from ground transportation also dropped 19% in the first half of 2020.

While emissions have started slowly increasing as people returned to work and resumed travel in the latter half of the year, they are still down on the whole when compared to 2019. But despite the decreases, the number of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere is still at record highs.

As most of us know, it’s going to take a lot more than a one-off drop in emissions to curb the current course of global climate change. In order to meet the Paris Agreement, countries must now willingly maintain the same drop (7.6%) in emissions achieved in 2020 every year going forward. The parameters of the pandemic restrictions such as lockdowns will not (and should not) be replicated in order to reduce carbon emissions... So where does that leave us?

in order to meet these annual decreases, we need to look at how we can truly change the infrastructure of our energy suppliers and how we can change our economy to rely on green solutions. Measuring carbon footprints to assess the amounts of pollution caused, investing in renewable energy, and reducing fossil fuel dependence is what corporations and governments around the world need to focus on immediately if we wish to continue to decrease emissions in a substantial way. Specific measurements such as the U.K.’s latest carbon budget are a great method to recognize the changes (both large and small) we need to enact, to measure their scalability, and to hold our institutions accountable.

That said, individual changes have taken effect over the last year. Small decisions like tracking your carbon emissions, going meatless once a week, telecommuting twice a week rather than commuting to the office, or large decisions, like purchasing an electric car over a conventional one, do have an effect on carbon emissions. Getting involved with local government departments working on green issues and legislation changes such as deciding building codes, city-wide energy usage, etc. is also a great way to make a difference. Contact your local government to see how you can get involved and make your voice heard.

How do you see carbon emissions changes in 2021? How can we keep our institutions focused on measurable and substantial climate action? We’d love to hear more! Join the conversations via our Instagram channel, or say hi to the team at


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