Assessing the recent impact of COVID-19 on carbon emissions from China using domestic economic data

Pengfei Han*, Qixiang Cai, Tomohiro Oda, Ning Zeng, Yuli Shan*, Xiaohui Lin, Di Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

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The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused tremendous loss to human life and economic decline in China and worldwide. It has significantly reduced gross domestic product (GDP), power generation, industrial activity and transport volume; thus, it has reduced fossil-related and cement-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in China. Due to time delays in obtaining activity data, traditional emissions inventories generally involve a 2–3-year lag. However, a timely assessment of COVID-19's impact on provincial CO2 emission reductions is crucial for accurately understanding the reduction and its implications for mitigation measures; furthermore, this information can provide constraints for modeling studies. Here, we used national and provincial GDP data and the China Emission Accounts and Datasets (CEADs) inventory to estimate the emission reductions in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020. We find a reduction of 257.7 Mt. CO2 (11.0%) over Q1 2019. The secondary industry contributed 186.8 Mt. CO2 (72.5%) to the total reduction, largely due to lower coal consumption and cement production. At the provincial level, Hubei contributed the most to the reductions (40.6 Mt) due to a notable decrease of 48.2% in the secondary industry. Moreover, transportation significantly contributed (65.1 Mt), with a change of −22.3% in freight transport and −59.1% in passenger transport compared with Q1 2019. We used a point, line and area sources (PLAS) method to test the GDP method, producing a close estimate (reduction of 10.6%). One policy implication is a change in people's working style and communication methods, realized by working from home and holding teleconferences, to reduce traffic emissions. Moreover, GDP is found to have potential merit in estimating emission changes when detailed energy activity data are unavailable. We provide provincial data that can serve as spatial disaggregation constraints for modeling studies and further support for both the carbon cycle community and policy makers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141688
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date13 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • CO2 decrease
  • COVID-19
  • Gross domestic product
  • Transport
  • Inventory


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