20 Aug 2020, 13:10
Edgar Meza

Home office could significantly reduce commuting emissions - study

Clean Energy Wire

The increase of remote working triggered by the coronavirus pandemic can contribute significantly to reducing emissions in the transport sector, according to a study by the Berlin-based IZT-Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment commissioned by Greenpeace. In Germany, studies indicate that the percentage of teleworkers temporarily increased to between 25 and 37 percent due to COVID-19. While the authors note that it is unlikely that a large share of employees will continue to work from home following the crisis, they expect them to add one or two teleworking days to their workweek. With many employees unintentionally becoming teleworkers and travelling less, the beneficial impact on the climate was clearly evident, and new routines could accelerate the trend towards more flexible working patterns and in turn lead to less CO2 emissions as everyday commuting becomes increasingly unnecessary, write the study’s authors, Lisa Büttner and Anna Breitkreuz.

The study examines a “conservative scenario” with a 25 percent share of teleworkers and an “advanced scenario” with a 40 percent share of teleworkers. In the conservative scenario, the study estimates that one additional day working from home could save 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year by reducing the passenger kilometres travelled by 10.9 billion, corresponding to a 5 percent reduction in annual commuter emissions. Working two additional days from home would save 20.9 billion passenger kilometres and 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually, corresponding to an 11 percent emissions savings from commuter travel and 2 percent from total passenger travel, the study states. The advanced scenario foresees an annual savings potential from one day per working week of 18.4 billion passenger kilometres and 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. For two days it amounts to 35.9 billion passenger kilometres and 5.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, corresponding to 18 percent of commuting emissions, and 4 percent of total passenger transport emissions.

The largest part of emissions reduction in Germany caused by the pandemic's effects happened in the electricity sector, but transport also contributed a lot, according to estimates by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). Reduced road transport contributed 12 million tonnes CO₂ to the overall reduction of 67 MT CO₂ in the first half of 2020, the researchers had said.

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