Was the 2020 “COVID emissions dip” a myth?

The short answer is no – but that statement is immediately followed by an important 'but'.

By Jonathan Weinert

Jonathan Weinert is IoT Thought leadership for Signify

13 Oct 2021

As a result of worldwide COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions fell by between 4.2% and 7.5%, depending on how you measure them.

Unfortunately, this decrease wasn’t the pandemic’s secret silver lining as some had hoped.

As the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told The Guardian, “this was a ‘tiny blip’ in the continuous build up of GHG in the air caused by human activities, and less than the natural variation seen year to year.”


Increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities are a major driver of climate change”


One analogy for the COVID emissions dip, was that the bath was still filling with water but the flow had slightly reduced. Nevertheless, the bath was still filling up at a rate that would cause a serious problem unless addressed.

As discouraging as this maybe to people looking for some good climate news, the WMO’s State of the Global Climate report is even more sobering.

The WMO uses seven indicators to give a broad view of the global climate, with GHG emissions being only one of them. The others are; temperature, ocean heat, sea level, glacial mass, sea ice, and ocean acidification.

However, the level of GHG emissions has a special role to play, as it is the leading cause of changes in the other six indicators. “Increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due to human activities are a major driver of climate change,” says the WMO bluntly.

Most of the 'COVID emissions dip' can be attributed to a temporary decrease in both automobile traffic and a  slowdown in industrial activities. 

But the emphasis is on the temporary, because as soon as the pandemic restrictions are lifted, GHG emissions went back up. As The New York Times reported in June 2020, climate experts say that “the trajectory of global emissions in the years ahead is likely to be heavily influenced by the stimulus measures that countries enact, as they seek to revive their economies.” Clearly, there is much work to be done in order to cut global emissions permanently.

One way to help do that is to reconceive the built environment with the goal of achieving sustainability. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is increasingly giving us the tools to do just that.

The IoT is laying the foundation for an entirely new conception of how to build, operate, and maintain urban centers and the structures that comprise them.

With the European Green Deal and similar climate-neutral programs in other parts of the world, the year 2021 may well be the year that smart city and smart building approaches become the rule rather than the exception.

For more details, read this article on some smart approaches that can help end the emissions crisis, using Interact, Signify’s connected lighting software and systems for the IoT.

Find out more on Signify Green Switch here: https://www.signify.com/global/sustainability/green-switch

This article reflects the views of the author and not the views of The Parliament Magazine or of the Dods Group