China's CO2 Emissions Dropped 11% in the First Quarter of 2020, and Hubei Contributed Most during the COVID-19 Pandemic


The global pandemic of COVID-19 has a huge impact on social and economic activities. Due to the implementation of measures such as the “lockdown”, activities in transportation, electricity, and industrial production have been significantly reduced. However, the impact of the epidemic on CO2 emissions at the provincial level in China is rarely reported. The traditional inventory is limited by the timeliness of statistical data, which often lags 2-3 years. Therefore, new methods and data are needed to make up for this deficiency.

An international team led by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, using provincial GDP and transportation data, combined with CEADs inventory, estimated the changes in provincial carbon emissions in the first half of 2020.

China's CO2 emissions decreased by 257.7 Mt in the first quarter of this year (a year-on-year decrease of 11.0%). For provincial CO2 emissions reductions, as affected by the decline in the GDP of the secondary industry during the pandemic, emissions from Hubei Province’s fell the most, reaching 40.7 Mt (a year-on-year decrease of 44.4%). The CO2 emissions of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shandong Provinces decreased by 21.6 (11.0%), 17.3 (8.1%) and 16.8 (6.8%) Mt, respectively. The provinces in the North China Plain and Eastern China experienced obvious declines, and the corresponding secondary industry GDP fell by 5-20%. In contrast, in western and other provinces, CO2 emissions slightly dropped, which is related to the low emission base and the less impact of the epidemic. In the second quarter of 2020, due to economic recovery, the declines in most provinces were smaller than the first quarter.


Transport is the sector seeing the most influence on CO2 emissions from the lockdown. The research team analyzed the emissions reductions of ground transportation in provinces. In total, the reduction in CO2 emissions from transportation in 31 provinces was 65.1 Mt (a decrease of 32.7%). The reduction in passenger turnover is higher than those of freight. In the first quarter, Hubei Province’s traffic CO2 emissions were reduced by 7.6 Mt, Shanghai, Guangdong and Shandong Provinces reduced by 8.1, 6.8 and 3.5 Mt, and other provinces were mostly 1-2 Mt. 

The research team further analyzed the changes in the average daily coal consumption of the six major power generation groups and its relationship with the number of confirmed cases. Compared with the first quarter of 2019, the average daily coal consumption of the six power generation groups in the first quarter of 2020 dropped by 13.4%, and the peak fell by 25%. This result has a good negative correlation with the number of daily confirmed cases reported by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As advocated by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, we need to strengthen international cooperation and respond to the challenges of climate and environmental issues by taking the path of green and low-carbon economic recovery," Said HAN Pengfei from IAP.

The study is led by HAN, and is in collaboration with Dr. CAI Qixiang, and Dr. LIU Di from the LASG State Key Laboratory of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor Ning ZENG from the University of Maryland, Dr. Tomohiro ODA from Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, and Dr. Yuli SHAN from the University of Groningen,the Netherlands.


Reference: Han, P., Q. Cai, T. Oda, N. Zeng, Y. Shan, X. Lin, and D. Liu (2020), Assessing the recent impact of COVID-19 on carbon emissions from China using domestic economic data, The Science of the total environment, 750, 141688-141688, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141688.

Media contact: Ms. LIN Zheng,



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