ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF COVID-19

    August 20, 2020

    JDX Go Green Society

    As part of JDX’s continued commitment to a greener future, JDX’s Green Society has been busy researching the various impacts of COVID-19 on the environment. Our time in quarantine has proven that we, as humans, have been harming the planet through what we considered to be living ‘normally’. Is it possible that the ‘New Normal’ will allow us to undo the harm we have caused? Or, as movement across the world slowly increases, will we instead undo the progress we have made? Read on to find out more about the global impact of COVID-19, and what firms may be able to do it make it last.

    During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has done well to notice one comfort: the much-needed respite for our planets’ ecosystem. The city has heard a substitute of big red buses for bird song, and changes like this are appearing all over the world. Although we cannot take credit for these effects, it doesn’t diminish their significance. 

    It is estimated that the average Londoner will commute 13.42 miles per day, and spend 363 days of their life commuting. Recently, some of us may wonder why we ever spent so much time doing it in the first place! 

    Commuting accounts for more than 98% of an employee’s work-related carbon footprint. Thanks to our ability to work from home, it is estimated that we have reduced our carbon footprint by 77 CO2e (tonnes) from not commuting alone! Not to mention our endless take-away lunches, coffee-to-go and office utilities!

    This has been estimated based on the average London commute for each travel type (23 March – 10 Aug), and Data from the recent company poll on how we would return to work.

    Calculate your own here: https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

    The construction and maintenance of buildings sectors combined are responsible for nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. “The ONS suggests more than half of Britons would like to work from home more often after the crisis and a third consider this a significant factor in a new job” (The Economist, 2020). These new demands may not only provide financial institutions with a means to free up capital by running out leases on office space, but also reduce their heavy (soon to be public) carbon footprints.

    Greenhouse gases fall during times of economic slowdown, and the Covid-19 pandemic will be the most striking example of them all. Levels of nitrogen dioxide have fallen as much as 40% increasing air quality and reducing the risks of asthma, heart attacks and lung disease.

    Although these changes are most welcomed – they likely won’t last – and it is more important than ever to adopt sustainable practices into our lifestyles. Covid-19 has taken the breath from far too many people across the globe, but our collective effort to reduce global emissions can help us all breathe a little easier.

    Impacts of Covid-19 on Global Air Quality

    1. Dip in air pollution across China, Europe and the US, with carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels heading for a record 5% annual drop.
    2. Compared with this time last year, levels of pollution in New York have reduced by nearly 50% because of measures to contain the virus. (BBC)
    3. coal use fell by 40% at China’s six largest power plants since the last quarter of 2019.  (BBC)

    There is a significant association between contingency measures and improvement in air quality, clean beaches and environmental noise reduction.

    Fig. 1. Evolution of NO2 concentrations in China.

    For example, in Hubei province (China), the strong social distancing measures that were implemented in late 2019 caused the country’s main economic activities to slow. Also, the use of vehicles decreased considerably. All this led to a dramatic reduction in the concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter that have a diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM 2.5) in the main Chinese cities.

    Fig. 2. Evolution of NO2 concentrations in some regions of Europe.

    Europe has also experienced dramatic reductions in air pollution as citizens are ordered to stay at home, causing main fossil fuel burning industries to come to a halt. Fig. 2 clearly illustrates a sharp reduction in NO2 concentrations in countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain (ESA, 2020b).

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