24 Mar 2020, 14:48
Rachel Waldholz

Corona impact on German emissions strong but likely short-lived - analysts

Handelsblatt / Der Spiegel

Carbon emissions and air pollution are expected to decline in Germany and worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic, but experts warn the decrease could be temporary, writes Kathrin Witsch in the business daily Handelsblatt. In Germany alone, the shutdown in car production and other manufacturing could cut industry’s demand for electricity by up to 20 percent – a greater decline than during the 2008 financial crisis, Witsch reports, citing a study from the consulting firm Enervis. This will likely drive down electricity prices, which could further disadvantage struggling coal plants and give a boost to renewable energy in Germany. With more people confined to their homes the electricity consumption by households has increased rapidly, the article says, and internet use is up, stressing Germany’s data networks. But that increased energy use is nowhere near the amount normally used by industry. “The sheer mass of electricity consumption in German industry is far too high for these to cancel each other out,” Enervis analyst Mirko Schlossarczyk told Handelsblatt.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus shutdown has also reduced air pollution across the globe, Der Spiegel reports. Satellite images from China published by NASA showed a major decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, while the European Space Agency reported a similar decline in northern Italy. But officials say it’s too soon to tell whether there will be a noticeable impact on air quality in Germany. German officials are also warning that the decrease in both carbon emissions and other air pollution is likely temporary and could be wiped out by higher-than-normal emissions once economic activity resumes. "After the crisis these emissions will be back," said Dirk Messner, head of the Germany Environment Agency (UBA).

Experts are predicting that the coronavirus outbreak will cause a deep economic slump and lower carbon emissions in Germany. An estimate from the think tank Agora Energiewende* found that, depending on the length of the crisis, Germany could meet or even surpass its original 2020 target of reducing carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels. The government had previously said it expected to miss that target.

*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

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