As reported in Nature Climate Change, scientists estimate that CO2 emissions declined 17% in April globally (relative to the mean level for 2019) as a result of Covid-required lockdowns.

The main reduction (50%) came from a decrease in transportation-related emissions. The study observed: “Surface transport accounts for nearly half the decrease in emissions during confinement, and active travel (walking and cycling, including e-bikes) has attributes of social distancing that are likely to be desirable for some time and could help to cut back CO2 emissions and air pollution as confinement is eased.”

The current projection is that emissions will fall in the 4-7% range for the year: “The impact on 2020 annual emissions depends on the duration of the confinement, with a low estimate of –4% if prepandemic conditions return by mid-June, and a high estimate of –7% if some restrictions remain worldwide until the end of 2020.”

This rate of reduction — ‘achieved’ in this instance involuntarily as a forced response to pandemic — would need to be achieved over decades to come on a planned basis (i.e. a deliberate global strategy involving serious policy and personal behaviour change) to limit temperature rise to the 1.5C target need to avoid ecosystem (and resulting economic and social) calamity.

But as the study commented: “Most changes observed in 2020 are likely to be temporary as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport or energy systems. The social trauma of confinement and associated changes could alter the future trajectory in unpredictable ways, but social responses alone would not drive the deep and sustained reductions needed to reach net-zero emissions. Scenarios of low-energy and/or material demand explored for climate stabilization explicitly aim to match reduced demand with higher well-being, an objective that is not met by mandatory confinements.”

People are commenting that traffic in Hawke’s Bay is pretty much back to normal already. And apart from a small but growing band of farmers transitioning to ‘regenerative’ practices, it looks like most HB farmers and growers are still committed to their BAU energy-intensive farming systems.

So, are you up for serious structural changes in our economic, transport and energy systems?

How much ‘new’ will there be in HB’s ‘new norm’?!

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