The US has recorded its largest annual drop in greenhouse gas emissions since World War II, according to a new report, after the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact helped the country to far exceed its 2020 climate target.
The new report on US emissions last year, by US research firm Rhodium Group, highlighted how reduced travel, changing demands for goods and services, and record-high unemployment levels reduced America’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 10.3 percent in 2020.
The figures represent the largest single drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II period, the report said, beating the 6.3 percent fall recorded during the 2009 economic crash, and taking figures 21 percent below 2005 levels.
The Rhodium Group has been studying how the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted the US economy and, within that, the implications it has for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. That drop in emissions carried its own cost, though, with the researchers expressly noting that “the emission reductions of 2020 have come with an enormous toll of significant economic damage and human suffering.”
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Without the pandemic and the subsequent recession, the researchers believe that US emissions would have declined by a paltry three percent in 2020. As such, the group warned that 2020 is likely to be an anomaly, with emissions expected to rise when economic activity picks up again later this year, particularly without a concerted national effort on the issue.
The 2020 targets exceeded by the US are laid out in the Paris Climate Accord agreement, which the Trump administration officially withdrew from last year. The incoming Biden administration has indicated its intention to rejoin the deal after taking office on January 20, as well as setting a target for the country to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
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