The United States recorded a 10.3% decline in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 2020 as economic activity contracted due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by the Rhodium Group, which noted the single largest drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II era.
“The hardest-hit economic sectors — including transportation, electric power, and industry — are also the leading sources of US GHG emissions,” the report said.
The transportation sector saw GHG emissions plummet 14.7% compared to 2019 levels, while the power sector saw a similar decline to the national average of 10.3%, the report said.
Industry, on the other hand, saw mixed impact as activity levels fluctuated from the onset to the peak of the pandemic. Between April and March, emissions fell 16%, the researchers noted.
The changes were attributed to reduced economic activity across America as a whole, including measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 such as shelter-in-place orders and travel restrictions.
Additionally, changes in the demand for goods and services as well as record-high unemployment contributed to falling emissions levels, the report said.
Last year’s decline in GHG emissions eclipsed a 6.3% drop recorded during the deep U.S. economic recession of 2009.
The researchers underscored that the factors leading to the decline are temporary and driven by the pandemic, adding that the 2020 reduction does not constitute “a down payment toward the U.S. meeting its 2025 Paris Agreement target of 26-28% below 2005 levels.”
President-elect Joe Biden has said the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement once he takes office January 20 and that he intends to put America on a course to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
According to the Rhodium Group, even if the pandemic had not occurred and economic activities were at full throttle, U.S. emissions would have declined by around 3% during 2020, mainly driven by the decline of coal-fired power generation and in part by a reduction in heating demand due to warmer winter weather.
Voice of America – English