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11 May 2022, 12:48
Benjamin Wehrmann

Work-from-home could push up CO2-emissions in the long run - researchers

Clean Energy Wire

The increasing pervasiveness of work-from-home options persisting after the coronavirus pandemic could lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions in the long run, economic research institute ifo has found in an analysis. “In the short run, people drive to work less often and CO2 emissions temporarily decline,” ifo researcher Waldemar Marz said. “However, over the longer term, they move away from expensive inner cities and are willing to commute over greater distances,” Marz said. Moreover, work in the "home office" could reduce incentives to buy more efficient cars, he added. These two factors combined would mean that the initial CO2-reduction is set off by 90 percent. Coupled with higher building emissions due to more people spending time at home and lower passenger numbers in public transport, the balance could tilt to a net increase of emissions, the researcher concluded. “The climate challenge has a very long time horizon. That’s why a long-term perspective is so important,” the ifo said. The analysis was made based on data from the U.S. but could be used to gauge similar developments in Europe, where income levels, car ownership and real estate market developments are similar, Marz said.

The pandemic has impacted social behaviour on many levels, with work from home options and digital meetings instead of physical travel among those expected to last even after response measures have been fully lifted. A 2020 study showed the increase of remote working can contribute significantly to reducing emissions in the transport sector, while a survey conducdet among hundreds of businesses in the country last year found that one third of business trips in Germany could be replaced by video conferences also in the long run.

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