The global economic shutdown as a result of efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 did little to change the trajectory of climate change, according to new research by Schroders.
The FTSE 100-listed asset manager’s latest quarterly Climate Progress Dashboard found that global average temperatures are still on course to rise by 3.9°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.
This is much higher than the 2°C target set by world leaders in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
This was despite global energy demand and carbon emissions falling dramatically during March, April and May as countries around the world introduced restrictions on movement in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“While those sharp drops in activity help, structural changes are required globally to ensure this crisis proves a turning point in international commitments to sustain cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” Schroders said.
Andrew Howard, global head of sustainable investment at the investment giant, said: “On the face of it, the Covid-19 crisis appears to have sparked a turning point in global greenhouse gas emissions. If current lockdown trajectories continue, global energy demand may fall by 6% and carbon emissions by 8%, according to data from the International Energy Agency.
“However, there is also an unprecedented economic cost. The International Monetary Fund has predicted the global economy could shrink by as much as 5% this year. It has revealed unemployment levels have already reached the highest levels seen in at least half a century.
“We believe that as economies recover from the Covid-19 crisis, falls in emissions are likely to be reversed, if recoveries from past crises provide any guide. Tougher structural changes are needed if we are going to avert the equally devastating long-term impacts of the climate crisis.”
Schroders’ analysis uses 12 indicators that influence carbon emissions and other environmental issues, spanning politics, business, technology and energy.
The analysis comes as a new report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund – an international non-profit organization – has warned that major weather disasters fueled by a changing climate were becoming more frequent.
The report, compiled by Datu Research, detailed the economic cost of extreme weather across the US. It also outlined the potential future impact of “weather disasters” if the country did not reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 1980, the report said, the US has seen a four-fold increase int eh annual number of severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
“Covid-19 and recent climate disasters have shown that we must step up investment in preparedness now, instead of waiting for the next crisis to hit,” said Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund.
“Mounting climate impacts are leading to a perfect storm, where federal, state, and local governments will be staggered by mounting disaster assistance demands while simultaneously trying to recover from deep recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Faster action to reduce climate change and more proactive investment in resilience are crucial to safeguard our future—and to help places and people adapt and succeed in the face of tremendous change.”