Drop in emissions due to pandemic-induced lockdown won't fix climate

The sun sets behind the London skyline, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain. Photo: Reuters

Geneva: A possible fall in greenhouse gas emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not be enough to stop climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, urging governments to integrate climate action into recovery plans.

The pandemic might cause the biggest yearly fall in carbon dioxide emissions since World War Two, although the WMO warned that past economic recoveries had been associated with even higher emissions growth than before the crises.

"COVID-19 may result in a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but it is not a substitute for sustained climate action," the Geneva-based agency said in a statement released on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 1970.

"We need to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19," the WMO's Secretary-General Petteri Taalas added.

The statement urged governments to consider stimulus packages that helped the transition to a green economy, adding to similar calls from some governments.

In a sombre reminder of the changes to the planet since 1970, the WMO said carbon dioxide levels were up 26% since then and the global temperature was 0.86 degrees Celsius higher on average.

The WMO also published on Wednesday the final version of its report on the Global Climate, which confirmed a preliminary finding that 2015-2019 was the warmest five-year period on record, with the global average temperature having increased by 1.1 degree Celsius since the pre-industrial period.