Pandemic could accelerate end of fossil fuels

In India, the United States and Europe the demand for energy dropped by 20 per cent, carbon emissions from energy production by 50 per cent.

Corona kann Ende des Kohlestroms beschleunigen
dpa

Essen (dpa) - The coronavirus pandemic has significantly contributed to the decline in use of fossil fuels for energy production, according to scientists at Germany's Potsdam University.

Worldwide carbon emissions from energy production declined by 7 per cent in the last year as demand for energy dropped, the scientists wrote in an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.

"Coal has been hit hardest by the corona[virus]-crisis than other energy sources," said Christoph Bertram, co-author of the study.

Due to high expenses, coal power stations are the first to be shut off when energy demand sinks, Bertram said.

As a result, the proportion of fossil fuels in the energy mix of 2020 has declined in many countries due to the pandemic.

In India, the United States and Europe the decline was even stronger than the worldwide average, the study found. Demand for energy in these key markets alone dropped by 20 per cent last year, compared to 2019, and monthly carbon emissions from energy production dropped by 50 per cent.

This trend could continue further into this year, and the pandemic could even be an opportunity for a permanent shift away from fossil fuels, the scientists found.

"With further measures such as scrapping subventions for fossil fuels or increasing investments in wind and solar energy it is easier than ever before to end the energy production that is harmful to the environment," said Ottmar Edenhofer, head of the university's climate research institute.