Earth Day 2020 : Reduced carbon usage in a time of global crisis

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and to celebrate, we’re taking a look at how the ongoing lockdown has reduced carbon consumption around the world.

Approximately a third of the world’s population is currently under lockdown, and businesses are being forced to reconsider the resilience of their processes. While the global quarantine has proven difficult for employees and businesses around the world, these ‘stay at home’ policies have resulted in several positive outcomes. With non-essential workers not currently commuting, occupying and working at commercial properties, fewer carbon emissions are being produced worldwide.

At one point, China’s carbon emissions fell by around 25% over a four-week period, equivalent to around 200m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2). The effects in India and the U.S. have been massive too, with both reducing their carbon usage by an estimated 2 billion tons in 2020 as a result of the ongoing lockdown. This is a mind boggling number, particularly since the average American uses 15.8 tons per year.

The residents of major cities like New Delhi, Venice, Milan and Jakarta are getting the chance to rediscover their own horizons as the smog lifts. The stark ‘before and after’ images expose the extent of the pollution in capital cities around the world.

As countries begin to consider slowly reopening, it’s clear that many of the lessons learned in the past few months hold lasting value for the fight against climate change moving forward. More companies than ever are encouraging their employees to work from home; consumers have been forced to streamline their routines; and our collective overdependence on oil has temporarily eased.

Now is the time for both the public and private sector to take stock of the past several weeks. We need to consider the positive elements of this ongoing lockdown, and which practices should carry on even once these temporary measures are lifted. Individuals also need to take the opportunity to be mindful of their habits, consume less and distinguish their day-to-day wants from their needs.

Some real estate companies are actually using the current economic pause to upscale their tech and interrogate their own operational efficiency. Because the buildings and construction sector accounted for 39% of energy and process-related carbon emissions globally in 2018, this can only be a good thing. The events surrounding Earth Day 2020 provide a blunt reminder that from a sustainability perspective, we all have lots of room to improve.

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